The Port of Newcastle will trial a new vessel arrival system in a bid to reduce the queue of ships waiting to be loaded, but the system is in danger sinking before it even starts.
Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi says it’s hoped the trial will reduce shipping costs and improve vessel safety, helping to avoid accidents like the grounding of the Pasha Bulker.
Phase one of the trial will see Newcastle Port Corporation (NPC) track the movement of vessels using satellite technology for 14 days prior to their arrival.
In stage two, the port will use this information to program the vessels’ arrival based on their location, speed and performance during the trial.
The vessel will be given a recommended arrival time based on the loading date advised by the coal terminal, Port Waratah Coal Services. This will avoid the vessel having to ‘race’ to Newcastle.
The Port of Newcastle currently operates on a first-in, first-served basis known as a ‘turn of arrival’ system, which encourages vessels to travel as quickly as possible to be admitted to the queue.
"It’s hoped this new system will allow coal ships to better time their arrival at the port to avoid spending time at anchor off the coast," Tripodi says.
"With a typical vessel able to reduce its fuel consumption by 40 percent through a 20 percent reduction in speed, this makes sense from both an economic and environmental view."
However, Shipping Australia CEO Llew Russell said the system has ignored the basic reason for vessels steaming to port, demurrage charges.
“When a ship issues a ‘ready to load’ notice, that’s when demurrage starts,” Mr Russell told The Australian Financial Review.
“That is all part of the terms of the contract. I was quite surprised when [Minister Tripodi] said he could decide those terms.”
Mr Tripodi’s plan is based on the premise that ships will embrace the system to save fuel by not having to travel at full speed to claim their place in the queue. It is unclear, however, exactly when ships would be able to start charging demurrage.
On the plus side, however, it would reduce the number of ships waiting off Newcastle. Images of up to 70 vessels at anchor off the port beamed around the world have been giving the Minister a bad name.