Port expansion plan unnecessary and dangerous
TURNOVER at the Port of Townsville has dropped by almost 50 per cent in the last five years. In 2011/ 12, turnover was 12.9 million tonnes; this year, excluding sugar exports from Lucinda Port, it will be 6.7.
Yet, despite this, the Port, wants to expand to become two- thirds the size of Brisbane Port. For a port servicing less than a fifth of the State’s population this makes little sense.
It makes even less sense when the Port’s underuse is factored in. Over the last 18 years, the Port has reached its own standard of ‘ optimum berth occupancy’ less than 20 per cent of the time.
But ‘ senseless’ becomes downright reckless when it is recognised that the expansion would occur in Cleveland Bay, part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
As the Port stated in its submission to government, ‘ Particularly notable marine ecological values supported by Cleveland Bay include: a wide diversity of marine habitat types including intertidal beaches, mangrove forests, saltmarshes, intertidal shoals, subtidal soft sediment habitats, rock walls, coral reefs and rocky shores; one of the largest seagrass meadows in the broader region; coral communities of high biodiversity significance; habitats for a wide range of fish and shellfish of direct economic significance; significant feeding grounds for marine turtles, dugongs and dolphins; and habitat for a range of threatened or otherwise listed marine megafauna, including whales and sharks protected under the EPBC Act’.
The Port claims that ships are getting bigger and it must expand in order to cater for them. This is at odds with the fact that, in April this year, ANL resumed direct routes to Townsville with a service linking Townsville to PNG and connectivity to Asia, Europe, North America, Mediterranean, NZ, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Gulf as well as Brisbane. The current size port offers no challenge for ANL’s vessels.
Townsville can and will continue to function well without this unnecessary but damaging expansion.
And as Minister for Trade Julie Bishop told her counterparts “As long as we lift the local pressures on the reef and as long as there is a concerted effort, then coral reefs around the world can survive and thrive”. So how about we don’t expand Townsville Port. WENDY TUBMAN,