Etihad and Virgin Blue form interline partnership

Etihad Airways and Virgin Blue today announced a comprehensive interline agreement which will provide travellers, and presumably air cargo, with seamless connectivity to 22 Australian cities and from Brisbane and Sydney to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive officer, said, “The closer cooperation with Virgin Blue will enhance significantly the travel experience and potential destinations for Etihad customers flying to Australia.

“Etihad strives to make as many global destinations available to our customers whether it is opening up new routes of our own or through strategic agreements with other airlines.”

Virgin Blue Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said,“The new interline partnership means Virgin Blue Guests who also choose to book international travel with Etihad can travel from anywhere on our network to any of Etihad’s 45 international destinations with ease.”

Etihad launched its daily service from Abu Dhabi to Sydney in March 2007, which was followed in September by the opening of its three flights a week servicing the Brisbane.

The Sydney route has proved such a success, with more than 60,000 passengers flying on the sector since its launch, that in March 2008 Etihad will increase the service to 11 flights a week.

Trucking association calls for reduced train speeds

A review of high train speeds on routes with only passive level crossings and frequent vehicle use has been called for by the Australian Trucking Association, (ATA).

In a submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Improving Safety at Level Crossings, the ATA has outlined high train speeds should only occur where grade separation or active crossings with suitable clearance times are present.

With level crossing crashes likely to increase without intervention, due to increasing transport demand across the board, the ATA has addressed the importance of road rail crossing design and appropriate train speeds.

"The ideal situation for any crossing is grade separation, thereby avoiding any potential for direct impacts between trains and motor vehicles," said ATA chief executive, Stuart St Clair.

The ATA notes the subsequent release of a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the Results on Trails for Heavy Vehicle Clearance Times at Level Crossings.

The ATSB study targeted the Fountain Head Road Level Crossing in the Northern Territory. Its final analysis identified the Australian Standard used to assess lines of sight as ‘probably inadequate’ for the

large truck combinations tested. The time taken for road trains to traverse the level crossing was recorded and assessed against available time given the sight distance and train speed of 115 kilometres per hour, which showed inadequacies, such that any driver would be unable to make an informed decision on whether it would be safe to proceed into the crossing.

Although this particular study took place at only one level crossing, the ATSB report explained similar issues are likely to exist at other level crossings used by road trains and where train speeds are relatively high. A risk-based approach is required that considers frequency of use of passive level crossings by road users.

"The ATSB findings only enforce the ATA’s position that trains are simply going too fast through some passive level crossings," said Mr St Clair. "We do not want to see yet another avoidable level crossing accident or even a near miss; there is a need for road and rail providers to step up and adopt more effective risk minimisation programs," he said.

The ATA understands that level crossing incidents represent a relatively small percentage of road user crash rates; yet they continue to remain a significant issue for rail and road operators.

The ATA believes that train speeds could be adjusted to match the available ‘line of sight’ at passive crossings with high traffic flows to improve safety.

"It is simply too dangerous and unacceptable if drivers, who are fully adhering to the road laws, cannot clear a crossing before a train travelling at high speed consumes the available line of sight," said Mr St Clair. "Rail operators need to match train speeds to level crossing types and available lines of sight and develop a further awareness to the traffic mix using the crossings."

Port Kembla car terminal open

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has unveiled the new car handling terminal at Port Kembla, beginning a new era in the state’s shipping industry.

Car carriers will soon start unloading the bulk of their cargo at Port Kembla’s inner harbour. The new terminal will handle all car imports from next year, when the city’s terminals at Glebe Island and White Bay close.

Premier  Iemma claimed the decision to move imports was not just about solving space problems at Sydney Harbour.

"We picked Port Kembla for a very deliberate reason and that was that we wanted to boost jobs in the Illawarra."

He says the move will also make use of the available land and facilities at Port Kembla.

Two 55,000 tonne carriers have already arrived at the port and will start unloading their cargo later today.


GrainCorp to acquire Hunter Grain

The acquisition, for $26.5 million (subject to any final purchase adjustments), is part of GrainCorp’s strategy to increase utilisation of port facilities and increase services to the domestic market, as well as to diversify earnings.

Mr Don Taylor, chairman of GrainCorp, says this acquisition complements GrainCorp’s port, international and domestic marketing and road transport capabilities, and provides further expansion into domestic markets on the east and west coasts of Australia. “The synergies in storage and handling, logistics and marketing activities enable GrainCorp to secure new earnings from trading co-products, increasing market share in domestic grain and further utilising the extensive bulk handling infrastructure network.

“This acquisition allows GrainCorp to further diversify into other agri-products and port activities, generating countercyclical earnings during poor seasonal conditions such as we are experiencing now. It also strengthens relationships with existing stockfeed customers through the supply and distribution of imported and domestic feedstuffs” said Mr Taylor.

Hunter Grain is Australia’s largest distributor of imported protein meals principally operating from port distribution centres at Kooragang (Newcastle), Brisbane, Geelong and Perth. Furthermore, it also operates a transport division comprising company-owned and sub-contractor trucks, and a trading business for grain. Hunter Grain has a turnover of $250 million and employs 30 staff with trading offices in Sydney and transport offices at Cowra. Hunter Grain will operate as a discrete business unit of GrainCorp, to be headed by the existing Chief Operating Officer Mr Malcolm Berry, and will continue to trade as Hunter Grain. The acquisition is expected to be completed, subject to customary conditions, by November 2007.

McArthur workers now political hot potato

The federal Workplace Relations Minister has told a group of people protesting outside his office it is up to the New South Wales Government to help owner drivers who worked for failed trucking company McArthur Express.

The Transport Workers Union wants a Federal Government scheme that has secured the wages and entitlements of the company’s employees expanded to include owner drivers and subcontractors.

Joe Hockey told protesters outside his North Sydney office that owner drivers were covered by the state industrial relations system.

Mr Hockey called on the State Government to protect the workers.

"They can’t pass the buck," he said. "They actually have to do their job and they leave poor people like [these people] here out in the lurch.

"I’m not going to let the matter rest and I’m not going to let the State Government off the hook after they demanded responsibility for this area of law and now they are walking away.

"I think that is terrible."

But the NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, says he will not budge, despite a second day of demands by the Federal Government.

He says it is not the State Government’s responsibility to help the owner drivers.

"Mr Hockey is playing political games with these people’s livelihoods," he said.

"He could fix this scheme with the stroke of a pen. He knows the point that they are treated by state legislation and all other practical purposes as employees.

"He’s stubbornly refusing to vary his legislation because he is playing politics with hardworking Australians livelihoods."

Port Kembla govt rail infrastructure handed to port corporation

Port Kembla Port Corporation has taken control of all government rail infrastructure and land in Port Kembla, on the New South Wales south coast, after a transfer from the State Government today.

The transfer involves rail assets, including 25 kilometres of rail track and sidings, being handed over by the Rail Infrastructure Corporation.

The chief executive officer of Port Kembla Port Corporation, Dom Figliomeni, says the network now includes the coal and grain rail systems, as well as the rail link to the new port car handling precinct in the inner harbour.

It was just a matter of time

With seawater running in his veins, it was only a matter of time before Chris Corrigan made an attempt to return to the docks.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, Chris Corrigan is expected to bid for the third stevedoring spot to be opened up by the Port Botany expansion.

Other likely bidders include Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings and Anglo Port, jointly with Philippine operator International Container Terminal Services. Hutchison recently entered the Brisbane market, winning the tender to operate a new container terminal.

The existing stevedores at the port, Patrick or DP World, are expected to be prevented from bidding in order to introduce fresh competition into the industry.

Mr Corrigan’s participation in the bidding will be via long-time business associate Sam Kaplan’s publicly listed KFM Diversified Infrastructure and Logistics Fund, which has taken direct stakes in several ports around Australia since its launch earlier this year.

The entry of a third operator is designed to maintain pricing pressures on existing operators, and limit prospects of price fixing and uncompetitive practices .

The NSW Minister for Ports, Joe Tripodi, said the stevedoring tender would be held early next year. As reported on TandLnews last week, the Government gave the nod to the joint venture of Baulderstone Hornibrook and the Belgian company Jan de Nul for the 60-hectare expansion of the port, a decision widely criticised citing Baulderstone’s recent checquered track record.

The expansion includes the creation of five new berths. The capacity of the port, which handles a third of Australia’s container traffic, is to be doubled.

Construction is to begin next year, with the first berth scheduled to be ready by 2012, well after 2010, which is when the port is expected to reach maximum capacity with its present number of berths.

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