Australia, Companies, Containers, Distribution, Features, Freight, Logistics, Ports, Shipping, Supply Chain

Ticking all the boxes

(L to R) ITC safety manager Stephen Costello, chief operating officer Brendon Gibson, and chief development officer Leigh Cook. Image: Prime Creative Media.

Intermodal Terminal Company is striving to change the terminal game in Australia and has begun so by constructing a new facility at its site in Somerton, Melbourne.

Wholly owned and backed by Aware Super, one of Australia’s leading superannuation funds managing $170 billion on behalf of its 1.1 million members, the Intermodal Terminal Company (ITC) aims to assemble a national portfolio of terminals with its first being the $400 million development of Somerton Intermodal Terminal (SIT).

Austrak Business Park founder and owner, Mark Assetta, said he was delighted the vision of establishing a major intermodal terminal at Somerton to service not only Melbourne and Victoria but also the national supply chain was fast coming to fruition under the stewardship of ITC.

“I’ve always said Somerton is perfectly positioned and sized to act as a key intermodal terminal in the supply chain – it sits within the major rail corridors of the ARTC north-south standard gauge and the VicTrack broad gauge networks. It enjoys direct access to the Hume Highway and other freight feeder roads, and services an existing large catchment of containerised freight movements and consolidation,” he said.

“I congratulate both ITC and Aware Super for supporting the future development and growth of Australia’s freight and logistics sector – this significant investment at Somerton will help make the national supply chain more productive for decades to come.”

The perfect location and size

With a background in investment management and transport infrastructure development, ITC founder and CEO Mishkel Maharaj was immediately impressed with Somerton’s unique location, the scale of the site, and the many benefits it would bring to both the national supply chain and broader community.

Maharaj said the SIT’s capacity will allow the rail freight market to flourish while also benefiting the wider community, enabling more freight to move on rail, thereby helping to reduce traffic congestion, road accidents and damage, and transport emissions.

“The benefits of the future SIT are compelling: it’s where a lot of freight movements and volumes are currently concentrated and it’s close to existing large-scale distribution centres and warehouses, Melbourne CBD, port, and airport,” he said.

“For example, Coles’ national distribution centre is located within the existing 135-hectare Austrak Somerton Business Park.”

Maharaj said it was rare to find large parcels of industrial zoned land with direct access to major rail and road freight corridors, while also being positioned within an existing business and logistics precinct close to a CBD and port.

“Significantly, with existing intermodal capacity set to be constrained within the next decade, SIT offers a privately funded solution to both the Victorian and Australian governments in coming years to secure future growth for freight movements in both state and national rail supply chains,” he said.

Maharaj said its vital rail freight has sufficient terminal capacity to grow and that future facilities are independently owned and operated so the whole supply chain can benefit from a competitive transport landscape.

“The SIT will be just that, and best of all, it’s funded by the private sector providing federal and state governments more scope to allocate limited taxpayers’ funds to continue to improve the resilience and capacity of existing interstate and regional rail freight networks,” he said.

Maharaj said once construction is completed in 2025, the SIT will be the largest intermodal terminal ever built in Australia. It will have an overall footprint of 45 hectares, including more than 30 hectares of concrete hardstands.

“The sheer size of the SIT allows an array of operational advantages and options for future customers, notably the ability to efficiently decouple, load and unload 600-metre port shuttle services and 1,500- and 1,800-metre interstate freight trains,” he said.

Maharaj said the future SIT provides customers with the ‘best of both worlds’ when it comes to accessing ARTC’s 7,500 kilometre standard-gauge interstate network and VicTrack’s intercity and regional broad-gauge network.

“Having direct access to VicTrack’s broad gauge network allows the future SIT to also service bulk steel and paper products originating from Victorian mills, with the intermodal terminal providing dual-gauge rail sidings to facilitate transfer of product between broad and standard gauge networks,” he said.

“Similarly, containerised products and commodities originating from regional Victoria and southern New South Wales can also be transferred between broad and standard gauge networks at a future SIT.”

Key features include:

  • Strategically located within the existing 135-hectare Austrak Somerton Business Park, which has already attracted a host of customers, including supermarket chains, big box retailers, and freight forwarders.
  • Direct access to the ARTC standard-gauge interstate network and VicTrack broad-gauge network.
  • Direct access to the Hume Highway, Somerton Road, and Craigieburn Bypass. The latter is the major heavy vehicle feeder from north-eastern Australian capital cities, Murray and Goulburn Valley’s agricultural and manufacturing areas, and links into the M80 Ring Road, Princes Hwy (M1/A1), Citylink (M1/M2), Western Highway (A8/M8), Monash Freeway (M1) and East Link (M3).
  • Future customers of ITC will have the option to shuttle containers seamlessly between Somerton and stevedoring terminals at Port of Melbourne via 600 metre services. By rail, Somerton is only 22.5 kilometres north of Australia’s largest containerised port.
  • Initially, 11 rail sidings will be available for above-rail freight operators to access, including 750- and 900-metre sidings to facilitate decoupling and loading/unloading of 1,500- and 1,800-metre interstate freight trains, respectively.
  • Laying of post-tensioned concrete slab (i.e. concrete slab instead of rock ballast) in terminal hardstands resulting in longer-life, hence less interrupted, operations (i.e. less maintenance required).
  • Several empty container parks totalling approximately 10 hectares in size.
  • ITC has already placed orders for the following electric powered machinery and equipment: (i) seven remote rail-mounted gantry cranes to be supplied by Konecranes (ii) seven Kalmar reach stackers, and (iii) two Kalmar empty container dual handlers.
  • Deployment of such state-of-the-art electric powered machinery and equipment will reduce operational emissions at the future SIT.
  • Direct connections to both the future Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail and northern endpoint of the Victorian Government’s Port Rail Shuttle Network.
  • Future SIT will involve an open access regime, with ITC being the owner and operator of the terminal.
  • Export/import customers, including regional shippers, will enjoy the added benefit of the SIT being a customs bonded facility.
  • Full suite of services on site, including container repairs, washing and fumigation.

ITC Chief Development Officer Leigh Cook said the size of the future SIT and deployment of many and varied beneficial operational features and technologies will enable the first phase of the facility to process one million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) each year.

“The ITC team has a proven track record in both developing and operating freight terminals, so we were incredibly excited to be able to conduct detailed design work on a superb site to make it truly customer-centric,” he said.

Cook said with the advent in the future of additional rail sidings, gantry cranes, and slip lanes for trucks, the SIT has potential to process up to two million TEUs each year.

“I’ve been involved in the freight and logistics sector for decades, but I’ve never seen a site like Somerton – it ticks all the boxes in terms of size and capacity, location and configuration, direct rail and road network access, and close proximity to port and large distribution centres and warehouses,” he said.

Industry icon chairs ITC

Maharaj said ITC was fortunate to be chaired by industry leader and former ARTC CEO John Fullerton, who brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and connections in the freight sector.

“What John doesn’t know about rail freight is really not worth knowing. He has more than 40-years’ experience in the freight and supply chain sector, was inaugural chair of Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Australia and the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, and a director of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board,” he said.

Fullerton said he was excited to chair the ITC and be involved in the development and construction of a major intermodal terminal in Australia’s supply chain.

“The ITC will help to inject greater competition into the rail freight sector, and the SIT will help to shift more containerised and bulk freight from road to rail, thereby reducing emissions in the hard-to-abate national supply chain,” he said.

Reducing emissions

ITC Chief Operating Officer, Brendon Gibson, said the company estimates the future SIT will help remove the equivalent of 500,000 truck trips each year off already heavily congested Melbourne streets, roads and motorways, including the Hume Highway and M80 Ring Road.

“ITC estimates removing this number of truck trips will help reduce emissions in the national supply chain to the tune of 189,000 tonnes each year,” he said.

Gibson said the future SIT will play a vital role in helping federal and state governments achieve mandated emissions reduction targets, not to mention assisting future SIT customers reduce their emissions in supply chain operations.

“For instance, in a 2020 report commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association, it was estimated rail freight produces up to 16 times less carbon pollution than road freight per tonne kilometre travelled,” he said.

The same report estimated road accident costs are 20 times higher than rail for every tonne kilometre of freight moved. A single container of freight switched from road to rail, between Sydney and Melbourne, would reduce accident costs by around $109. 

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