Walk the plank, Ray

• Chris Cain.

THE war of words over the future of Fremantle’s inner harbour is giving the Battle of Trafalgar a run for its money. In this latest installment CHRIS CAIN, national president of the maritime division of the CFMMEU, tells Ray Forma he should walk the plank over his dilettante comments about the workings of Fremantle port.

THE recent Thinking AllowedRed Herrings in the Harbour” by North Fremantle resident and geology graduate Ray Forma, was his second opinion piece on the future of Fremantle’s inner harbour in the Herald this year.

I don’t know if Ray has any experience working on the wharves or has port-related experience of any kind that would lend credibility to his opinions, but it just so happens nearly everyone who does have experience with port or freight and logistics issues, disagrees with him.

Turnaround times

I will compare some of his opinions with other sources and let the readers of this fine paper decide for themselves who has more credibility on port-related issues:

Mr Forma, January 2019 – “Fremantle inner Harbour is past its use by date”

Stevedoring Company general manager, August 2018 –  “All of our calculations indicate that 20 years capacity in the inner harbour is about the right number before we would begin to consider moving elsewhere”

Westport Report – “Fremantle is already highly productive…This port could potentially handle more than double this number of containers and more passenger ships”

Mr Forma, March 2019 – “Fremantle has Australia’s worst physical terminal infrastructure”

The most recent data on major capital city ports show that Fremantle inner harbour has the best container turnaround times, the best truck turnaround times and a crane rate per hour significantly higher than the average and best in Australia.

The $15-million crane DP World delivered in September 2018 will allow Fremantle to service extra-large vessels carrying 10,000 plus containers of goods, and service the largest ships visiting Australia.

That crane is part of a national upgrade to our maritime infrastructure because that is how our maritime freight infrastructure works.

If we build a massive new container terminal here in WA, the ships Mr Forma is talking about won’t come to Australia until every port has been upgraded.

Or you could listen to the words of the President of the International Harbour Masters Association at a public forum last August:

“About 40 per cent of Australia’s container trade goes through Melbourne and they will dictate what size ships visit Australia. We can already do larger ships than Melbourne in the inner harbour.”

What Mr Forma doesn’t understand is shipping is not a “build it and they will come” situation.”

You need to have the trade volumes to support the infrastructure investment and it is ridiculous to suggest building a $6 billion-plus massive outer harbour will somehow reduce costs for our imported goods.

On the exports side, we currently export around 150,000 empty containers every year.

The truth is, the facts and data are clear–our publicly-owned port in Fremantle returned over $100 million to the state coffers last year, is the best performing port in all of Australia for crane rates and truck turnaround times and has plenty of room for growth in the future.

Or maybe Mr Forma should read the government’s Westport report where it says “Fremantle has the physical capacity within its existing footprint to handle a substantial increase in container trade and to continue in its role as a conventional cargo trades port”.

Unless you are a property developer, building a massive container port facility in the near future doesn’t make economic or environmental sense.

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