Home' Ausmarine : July 2009 Contents As most of you who have been to Hong Kong and Singapore,
will have seen from the plane, there is an absolute plethora of
ships of all sizes and types, either anchored, being stevedored
or transiting those ports.
Both of those successful ports were established, need I say, by
visionary Scotsmen, as ideal transhipment ports -- which they
continue to be.
Closer to home, in the early 1800s, the British government
became interested in establishing a settlement on Australia's
northern coastline in order to facilitate trade with Asia. In 1824,
Port Essington on the Northern Territory's Cobourg Peninsula, was
proposed as the first such settlement, but was later passed over in
favour of Fort Dundas on Melville Island and Fort Wellington at
Raffles Bay. When both Fort Dundas and Fort Wellington failed
within several years, the Port Essington site was revisited. As a
result, a first settlement, consisted of 24 houses and a hospital.
While the British government intended to establish Port
Essington as a major trading port, along the lines of Singapore, the
new settlement suffered from the same adverse conditions that had
previously plagued Fort Dundas and Fort Wellington. The settlement
lacked resources and supplies, skilled labour and good housing.
Port Essington suffered cyclones, ship groundings, disease and
struggled to attract settlers. The New South Wales government
had hoped to establish a direct line of communication with Asia,
India and the Pacific, and supported Leichhardt's expedition,
which successfully charted an overland route between Brisbane
and Port Essington.
Port Essington was still failing to attract settlers, and it was
becoming increasingly clear that the settlement was unsustainable.
Finally, in 1849, Port Essington was, like the two previous
attempts, abandoned. The demise of the settlement saw the end of
British attempts at occupying the north coast. The first permanent
settlement was established at Darwin, initially known as
Palmerston, in 1869, but was well off the path of vessels trading
from Asia to the Pacific.
Some 173 years and several hub port attempts after Port
Essington, in 1997, a proposal to use Mawai Island (also known
as Wednesday Island, adjacent to Thursday Island) as a Northern
hub port, was promoted.
The key objective of this project was again to develop a
business rapport with international carriers and import/export
agencies that tranship cargoes via Torres Strait, with the aim
being able to offer them a streamlined service through the ports
of Mawai and Brisbane.
But by that date, the volume of regulation regarding waterfront
infrastructure development in Australia was already daunting. Add
to this the fact that the area is remote, expensive to build on and
without incentives such as tax relief, the place still struggles to
attract settlers as Port Essington did. The Mawai proposal died.
It is difficult to refrain from basic logic, but, in 173 years,
did our leaders learn nothing about attracting settlers in our
Certainly there is an even more commercial demand for a
transhipment port with 2,236 ships transiting the inner route and
1,010 ships on the outer route of Torres Strait last year.
In a somewhat surprising development, Papua New Guinea's
Sustainable Development Program (SDP) has identified that there
is considerable merit in building a deepwater port.
Daru, the small PNG port in the Western Province, only seven
miles from the Australian border, has passed through a rigorous
feasibility study. After geotec samples have been assessed for
dredging, it has been decided that the port will go ahead.
The dredge spoil will assist the build up of the shallow area to
the east of Daru town for the new port and the area has been
declared as a tax free port. An elevated roadway across the shallows
will connect the new port to the town and help maintain security
for the port.
The existing channel between Bristow Island and Daru is
already six metres deep, so to take it to 12.5 metres to allow for
Panamax vessels is relatively easy.
The new port will have independent berths for Panamax
and Handysize vessels as well as four berths for small bulk
A separate area will be built for Navy and Border Protection
patrol vessels with 120 metres of quayline. With tax-free fuel, and
a port outside cyclonic weather, this would seem to be a
commercially and operationally attractive transhipment port.
For bulk cargoes, the port represents a five million dollar ($5m)
saving in steaming costs for the small Ok Tedi copper feeder vessels
in their leg to Port Moresby while the mothership, 'Erawin',
languishes there for eight months a year.
For Australian bulk cargoes from shallow water ports,
Daru offers an interesting transhipment port. Taking it a step
further, PNG has a vast supply of energy in terms of
hydro-electricity and gas streams, so refining products such as
bauxite into aluminium and value adding becomes an economic
reality. Eliminating the cumbersome and daunting Australian
regulatory and union regimes, Daru becomes a very interesting
SDP should be applauded for its vision, and now that the
tender process has just been completed for the construction of
this new port, the building of the port is close to fruition.
Having over 3,200 ships passing through the Strait every year is
a better market than our forefathers had in 1824, and only a
very small percentage of this traffic will ensure the viability of
this exciting new port.
With STUART BALLANTYNE
THE EDUCATION OF AN
Daru -- a smart move by PNG
July 2009 AUSMARINE
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