Oct 21, 2010

Port Botany ­ Facts or Fiction

For the last couple of editions, the Southern Courier has carried articles revolving around expansion of Port Botany, as well as a story on the official opening of the some community facilities that were part of the approval of terminal three.
As part of the first article, Sydney Ports Corporation advised that it could not give a forecast of expected trade and throughput for the next 30 years, adding that throughput is capped at 3.2 million teu’s, or twenty foot equivalent – containers in our understanding.
As one who has followed port development very closely, this rang untrue to me.  By checking submissions received by Infrastructure Australia as part of its development of a National Ports Policy, my inclinations proved to be correct.
The Australian Government, through Infrastructure Australia, is developing a National Ports Policy and an associated National Freight Policy. Part of that strategy development is to issue discussion papers and then call for submissions.  That, Infrastructure Australia did.
It was strange to me that while the Port of Melbourne, Port Kembla, Geraldton in Western Australia, the Maritime Union of Australia, the National Farmer’s Federation and the NSW Business Chamber, among others, made submissions Sydney Ports Corporation did not.  Seeing as it is the second largest container port in Australia, the absence from making a formal submission seemed strange indeed.
However, the NSW Department of Transport did and buried in that submission is an admission that would surprise no one.
The Department refuted the IA forecast and, quoting what it described as the trade simulation that NSW agency, Sydney Ports Corporation, is developing has an average growth rate of just under 6%, which puts container trade in 2029/30 at 5.8 million.
When queried about this inconsistency by the Southern Courier, Sydney Ports Corporation says this week that yes it gave the figures to the Department of Transport but that the figures were only preliminary.
In reality, the 5.8 million figure has been privately acknowledged by Sydney Ports Corporation for some time.  The corporation tends to dismiss the formal ministerial approval of Terminal 3 and the cap of 3.2 million teu’s.
The view held by the corporation is that, when necessary, it will gain government approval for the higher throughput.
What this means to the residents of our City, and those of our neighbours, is chaos, congestion, environmental disasters, noise and a diminution of our standard of living.
Foreshore Road, Bunnerong Road, sections of Botany Road, the M5East and M5West, Southern Cross Drive, the Eastern Distributor and all the streets and roads in between will feel the impacts.
Even with the mythical 40 per cent of movement by rail, we would still see 3,500,000 containers go via road.  If rail handled 30 per cent (and that is about the top of the real estimates), then over four million containers would be on our roads.
Either 30 per cent or 40 per cent would still mean more containers on the road than would go through the port at the capped level of 3.2 million.
I realise some people think I harp on this too often, but unless we keep the debate going we won’t get government action to enforce a transport mode shift from road to rail.  Unless we get that mode shift, what we’re looking at is almost beyond contemplation.
We won’t be able to use any of the roads out of our city – they will be blocked constantly and for the sake of the future for our residents, this debate must be continued.

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