First deck units installed at Wiggins Island coal terminal

A new coal export terminal is taking shape in Gladstone, with the first of nine deck units that will help form part of its wharf installed.

Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET), is being constructed at Golding Point to the west of the existing RG Tanna and Barney Point Terminals, and will form part of the existing Port of Gladstone.

A joint initiative being developed by existing and potential coal exporters in Queensland, the terminal is moving closer to its first shipment of coal in 2015 with the arrival and installation of two deck modules which will form the wharf of the project.

The initial modules weigh 656 and 342 tonnes, with the 8.5 hour lift and install effort involving fabricators SinoStruct, Monadelphous Muhibbah Marine Joint Venture, Jumbo Shipping and the WICET PCM team.

The project is now preparing to receive a further three modules in November.

WICET acting general manager project development Peter Lyons said the installation of the deck units marked a major milestone for the offshore marine works associated with the project.

"Significant progress has been made on both the wharf and jetty structures," he said.

"To date, almost 40% of the 341 piles, which form the foundations for these structures, have been driven into place."

Stage one construction of WICET is about 65% complete.

WA regulator sets price for FMG’s port and rail assets

Western Australia’s economic regulator has set a maximum price for access to Fortescue Metals Group’s port and rail assets, meaning the infrastructure access conflict between Fortescue Metals and iron ore hopeful Brockman Mining is moving in the right direction.

The rail and port access conflict between Fortescue and Brockman could be solved with two long arbitration meetings as the cost setting by the regulator still did not abate the conflict between the two companies.

Fortescue’s rail and port assets are held in The Pilbara Infrastructure, a fully owned subsidiary.

The economic regulator has set a maximum price to be paid to TPI at $316.9 million a year. That is 45 per cent below Fortescue’s proposed maximum price in May, SMH reported.

When Brockman asked for access to the Pilbara rail line, TPI gave a floor cost of $73.4 million and a ceiling cost of $575.6 million.

None of the parties are able to specify what the $316.9 million maximum cost would mean on a “per tonne of iron ore” basis.

It also fixed a minimum price of $84.7 million a year and the companies have to negotiate a price between the two figures.

But Fortescue is still not ready to discuss the final cost with Brockman because it felt Brockman had not established it had the financial capability to construct the Marillana iron ore venture.

Fortescue chief executive Nev Power criticised Brockman’s financial capability.

“Fortescue shareholders are not obligated or required, under any agreement or legislation, to subsidise or risk wrap third party projects that are uneconomic,” he said.

Fortescue is also unsure if Brockman has the extra capacity on the railway for it to use.

And Fortescue does not have to negotiate with the junior miner until it is guaranteed these problems are solved as per WA’s third party access laws.

But Brockman has argued it is not in a position to assess the financial position of the venture until it is clear on the expenses of its transport solutions.

Under the circumstances of continuing conflict Brockman could ask for an arbitrator to assess whether its financial situation is strong enough to insist Fortescue start price negotiations.

If negotiations take place but do not result in a consensus, a second arbitrator will be called on to decide how much Brockman should pay for infrastructure access.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said resource companies fighting over sharing infrastructure is one of the biggest obstacles to keeping projects within budget and on time.

He said the Department of State Development spent more time dealing with conflicts between mining companies than with regulatory delays.

Brockman head Russell Tipper is happy to have a costing structure.

“This framework further enhances Brockman’s ability to demonstrate the financial viability of its project to progress access negotiations.”

Brockman Mining signed a supply, infrastructure cooperation agreement in the Pilbara with Flinders, saying they will work together on a transport solution that will get their product to market.

Fortescue Metals Group’s infrastructure arm was criticised by Flinders mines for being secretive over its costing details.

Flinders Mines said costing estimates by The Pilbara Infrastructure is ‘difficult to understand’

They signed a three year agreement with Aurizon that will see the rail operator develop and operate rail and port infrastructure for the company’s two Pilbara iron ore projects.

Fortescue moved to downgrade its iron ore production targets and pushed back the timing of its asset sales.

Investors urged the company to decrease its $US10 billion debt, leading the company to offload its minority interest in its port and rail assets, which are expected to deliver $3 billion to the company.

Egyptian sailors fly home after wage dispute

A dispute onboard a coal ship at Port Kembla which saw seven crew members refuse to sail the vessel has ended as the men agree to be flown home.

The Illawarra Mercury reports the crew agreed to board flights home from Sydney last night after being paid wages owed.

The industrial dispute started last week when crew members accused the ship’s owner, Egyptian-owned National Navigation Co of halving their wages and prohibiting access to food and water between 7pm and 7am daily.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Gary Keane, who helped resolve the dispute between the Wadi Alkarm's owner and its crew, said it was a good result.

"We're happy enough to have had the resolution, on the industrial side of it, that we set out to do," Mr Keane said.

The boat will remain docked at Port Kembla until the company can send crew members.

Small steps for WA rail plan, says Aurizon

Iron ore producer Atlas Iron has welcomed a new railway in Western Australia’s iron ore Pilbara region, calling it a “fantastic solution”.

But builder of the railway Aurizon alerted it will not make any hasty decisions on the project.

Brockman Mining signed a three year agreement with Aurizon that will see it build and operate rail and port infrastructure for the company’s Marillana and Ophthalmia mines.

Aurizon will operate rail, rolling stock and related infrastructure required by the mine projects and build port facilities.

Brockman Mining signed a supply, infrastructure cooperation agreement in the Pilbara with Flinders mines. It said they will work together on a transport solution that will get their product to market.

Brockman Mining and Flinders mines have signed a supply, infrastructure cooperation agreement in the Pilbara, saying they will work together on a transport solution that will get their product to market.

The freight rail operator’s chief executive Lance Hockridge told ABC’s Inside Business Aurizon needs the backing of a couple of mining companies in order to go ahead with the $10 billion rail network.

Atlas Iron managing director Ken Brinsden agreed and said the project would require assistance from many customers to make it financially feasible, The Australian reported.

“We’ve made no secret that Atlas is not really in a position to justify rail in its own rights, so I would say that if a network like Aurizon is going to be able to get up in the Pilbara then there’s no doubt in my mind it needs multiple customers,” Brinsden said.

“It’s fair to say we’ve got a discussion going on with quite a few people and at the end of the day the Aurizon solution might very well constitute it: a fantastic solution for the Pilbara as a whole.”

Hockridge said the company needs to do more work before starting the project.

“The concept is essentially open access. It would be open to all corners, as opposed to being dedicated to individual miners.” he said.

“We come from a mindset that is a 30 to 40-year business. We’re very much in the early stages of our investigation and I don’t think that there’ll be any resolution of that any time soon.

“We’re focused on our concept and I emphasise again it’s at concept phase and we need to do a good deal more work.

“We’re encouraged by the progress so far but there are self-evidently a whole range of issues that we’ve got to get through before we get to anything which is more definitive.”

Atlas Iron pays an average of $13 a tonne to transport iron ore from the Pilbara mines to Port Hedland.

But Brinsden expects the price to dip to as low as 5c to 6c per tonne per kilometre if the rail lines are built like those on east coast coal networks.

“There’s an opportunity to be on the rail, and rest assured we’re working really hard to look for solutions like that so we can come up with a logical and commercial, more sophisticated infrastructure solution that makes sense for the growth of the business,” Brinsden said.

Aurizon said earlier this month it will slash costs by more than $230 million over the next two years, which will see job cuts and property sales. It said it would move to cut $70 million in labour costs over the next 24 months.

It is not known how many jobs will be affected.

The company has cut hundreds of jobs over the past year, with voluntary redundancies comprising most of it.

Industrial action at Newcastle coal terminal

Workers have announced they will carry out strike action at New castle' Port Waratah Coal Services tonight.

Four hour work stoppages will start at 11pm tonight, and will stake place every night for the next week.

Maritime Union of Australia national assistant secretary Ian Bray explained that although PWCS and the union are close to an agreement "there remain a few unresolved issues that the workers consider important enough not to walk away from and, as a result, the workers are taking this protected industrial action".

“We emphasise again, however, that we seek to reach agreement on those unresolved matters because we, like PWCS, would welcome a return to getting on with the business of shipping coal to PWCS clients.”

Earlier this month workers held a two day strike, after failing to reach an agreement over ten months of long running disputes.

Newcastle port to go private for $700 million

The NSW Government is set to sell off Newcastle Port in a deal worth an estimated $700 million.

The privatisation of the port, which will be leased for 99 years, follows the selling off  by the Liberal Government of both Port Botany and Port Kembla in similar deals.

Half of the proceeds, around $340 million, will be spent on revitalising Newcastle CBD.

‘The $5 billion received less than three weeks ago from the long-term lease of Port Botany and Port Kembla was a landmark event in the fiscal strategy of the government,’’ Baird told Parliament.

‘‘The transaction showed what can be achieved when the right asset is marketed at the right time, with the right process.

“Legislation for the sale is expected to be introduced to Parliament this week, before a scoping study is commissioned. The sale is anticipated to be completed before next year’s budget.”

Baird said the lease would not include any of the port’s coal loaders, which are privately owned and operated, Newcastle Herald reported.

Many fear the privatisation of the port will affect employees and clients, and the wider community in general. The port employs 141 people, or 136.5 full-time equivalent staff.

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson described the sell off as "absurd".

"Most people in Newcastle I imagine will be devastated," Robertson said.

"Jobs are provided at Newcastle port, it's the world's largest coal exporting terminal and it's being sold off.

"It generates revenues for the budget in NSW, it provides employment opportunities.

"What we know is that when you sell these assets jobs go.”

While unions have labelled the move ‘short sighted’.

Maritime Union of Australia Newcastle branch deputy secretary Dennis Outram said the port was one of the most profitable in Australia.

‘‘It makes no sense to privatise one of the most profitable assets you own in exchange for prettying up Newcastle, especially not when they should have been doing that anyway.’’

Outram said the union would be making representations to ensure conditions were protected for the ‘‘long term’’.

‘‘This is a short kill for [Premier] Barry O’Farrell and very concerning for the people of Newcastle and NSW,’’ he said.

Australian Maritime Officers Union national industrial officer and former Swansea Labor MP Robert Coombs said the $700 million price tag for the port was ‘far too low’.

‘‘It just doesn’t stack up from an economic point of view because that’s what they got for Port Kembla,’’ Coombs said.

‘‘It also leaves a big question about who is going to pay for the much-needed services like security for overseeing dangerous goods and pilotage for dredging. These types of things are crucial for service and security and they don’t turn a profit.’’ 

Newcastle Maritime Centre president and former Shortland Labor MP Peter Morris said the government should have focused on developing the port as a car import facility and container terminal.

‘‘They are going to cash in the port and they are also cashing in its future revenue stream,’’ he said. ‘

‘It’s far more important to be looking to the long term and planning for development of the port and the region.’’

But shipping agent Graham Clark welcomed the move and described it as ‘‘sensible for future growth’’.

 It would ‘‘let us run our own race and be the masters of our own destiny’’, he said.


Iron ore port expansion seeks company proposals

Esperance Port have shortlisted two corporations to provide proposals on the development of a new multi-user iron ore export facility.

Qube Bulk in partnership with Brookfield Infrastructure and the Yilgarn Esperance Solution consortium have both been asked to provide details on the development of the project.

Port chairman Bob McKinnon said both corporations had best addressed project objectives and demonstrated they met stringent evaluation criteria, The West Australian reported.

The criteria included experience in bulk port operations, an understanding of the project, the financial capability and capacity, and design and construction experience.

"The short-listed consortia have significant experience in infrastructure investment as well as designing, financing and operating major projects related to the movement and handling of large volumes of bulk products," McKinnon said.

Earlier this year the West Australian Government gave the go ahead for the new iron ore facility.

The development of a multi-user iron ore export facility at Esperance will underpin the development options for transport of ore from mine to ship.

The port is linked by rail through Kalgoorlie to Leonora. Trucking operations would then use a relatively short section of the unsealed Ulalla Road linking the mine to the fully sealed Goldfields Highway from Wiluna to Leonora.

Fledgling miners in the Yilgarn region of Western Australia have been given a boost by the decision as it will help open up the Yilgarn to further development, with the region currently struggling from a lack of major infrastructure.

The Yilgarn, located between Perth and Kalgoorlie, contains a number of gold deposits, as well as significant reserves of iron ore.

Yilgarn Iron Producers Association CEO David Utting said the Government's decision was a win for miners in the reigon, and would help create “thousands” of new jobs in the sector.

The industry group estimates an extra 10 million tonnes of iron ore production in the Yilgarn would create 1000 direct and 3227 indirect jobs, with royalty contributions also getting a boost.

A market sounding exercise carried out by EPSL found that iron ore production in the region could grow significantly in the next 10-15 years.

A completion date of early 2015 was outlined for the expansion, and studies have suggested an increase of 10-12 million tonnes a year would be viable.

Currently the port has a capacity of 11.5 million tonnes.


Newcastle port workers to strike again as dispute continues

The long running industrial dispute at the Port of Newcastle is far from over, with unions announcing plans strike for 12 hours over three days this weekend.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Daniel Wallace said the dispute over new enterprise bargaining agreements had not been resolved.

He said Port Waratah Coal Services had been notified that strike action would take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 11pm to 3am, Newcastle Herald reported.

The new round of action follows a two-day strike held at the port last week.

The dispute between workers and PWCS has been running for 10 months.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting.

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

An MUA spokesperson told LMH the main issues have to do with settlement procedure of contract issues, what matters can be arbitrated and a concern over the use of contractors.

The spokesperson said another meeting will be held with PWCS at 1.00pm today.

PWCS told LMH it was hopeful a resolution would be reached.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively,” he said.

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

Port of Melbourne set to expand capacity and competition

The Port of Melbourne Corporation have announced a list of bidders vying to build and operate Melbourne’s third international container terminal.

The shortlist includes bids from experienced companies like Specialised Asset Management Limited, Hutchison Port Holdings and Qube Holdings Limited.

Minister for Ports David Hodgett welcomed news of the shortlisted companies.

“The $1.6 billion Port Capacity Project is a critical infrastructure project that will drive competition and fundamentally enhance Victoria’s future economic growth,” Hodgett said.

“I’m pleased to see the shortlist of bidders has revealed a strong field of experienced and worldclass industry players that will enhance and build on competition in the sector and fuel further jobs growth for the state.

“It was only a year ago when the Coalition Government announced the Port Capacity Project and already we have leapt forward to a stage where we are well on track to having an operating terminal by 2016, providing the certainty in container capacity this state needs for at least the next decade.”

The announcement of the short-list for the international container terminal follows the announcement of the short-list of bidders to operate the new automotive terminal and pre-delivery inspection hub.

The shortlisted bidders will be required to lodge their proposals in September this year and it is expected that the successful bidder will be announced in early 2014.

Hodgett said the development of the third international container terminal is the centrepiece of the Port Capacity Project and today marks a significant milestone towards delivering the project.

“The high level of interest and calibre of companies shortlisted to build and operate the third terminal confirms the significance of this project and how much it is valued by industry,” Hodgett said.

“Victoria needs expanded container handling capacity to accommodate growth now and into the future.”


Multi-user port in Pilbara receives EPA backing

A multi-user iron ore port in the Pilbara has been given approval by the State’s Environmental Protection Authority.

The port at Cape Preston East, 60km south-west of Dampier, will use a new method to transfer iron ore from shore to ship, removing the need for dredging.

Self-powered barges will move iron ore produced by proponent Iron Ore Holdings to a large transhipment vessel moored about 18km offshore, The West Australian reported.

The EPA imposed eight recommended conditions.

The proposal will now be handed to WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob.

The EPA also recommended for conditional approval a new commercial algae farm near Karratha, proposed by Aurora Algae Pty Ltd.


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