Freo port downgrade

• The Westport Taskforce’s latest “Beacon” has boiled down the options for WA’s port and freight options into a shortlist of five, with three recommending a downgrade for Freo and two a shared workload with Kwinana along a “blue highway”.

FREMANTLE looks set to lose its standing as Perth’s leading port.

A massively expanded Outer Harbour at Kwinana and much-reduced role for Fremantle has been identified as a preferred option in a new report.

The independent Westport Taskforce was commissioned by the McGowan government to assess all available options, including sharing cargo between Fremantle and Kwinana, as well as a massive expansion of Bunbury port.

After considering trade forecasts, environmental and economic impacts as well as community input across 25 options, the report recommends a “stand-alone conventional land-backed port” extending “along the coastline between the Kwinana Bulk Terminal and the Alcoa jetty.”

Capable of handling an equivalent of 3.8 million twenty-foot containers a year, it will be “more reliant on road transport over rail” incorporating an Anketell  Road extension to Tonkin Highway, despite a continued community push for more containers on rail. Other even less carbon-friendly options considered included a ‘blue highway’, comprising a fleet of barges ferrying containers back and forth from Fremantle to Kwinana.

The report recommends that container operations be moved completely to Kwinana, while retaining passenger and some freight tasks in Fremantle, maintaining Freo’s identity as a working port while removing trucks and congestion from the roads surrounding it.

The decision, though not yet official, has been long supported by WA Labor.

Investment

“Investing in a new Outer Harbour or upgrading Fremantle Inner Harbor is one of the biggest investment decisions a state government can make, so we need to ensure all options have been explored”, transport minister Rita Saffioti said on Thursday.

She added the findings suggest “continually expanding the Fremantle Inner Harbour…doesn’t stack up financially”, saying “the continued funnelling of freight trucks to Fremantle and the western suburbs through built up residential areas does not make sense.”

Liberal shadow transport minister Libby Mettam called the report “fatally flawed”, noting the report was “directed to exclude Roe 8”, which the Libs are still heavily pushing for.

Shadow ports minister Tjorn Sibma went even further on Twitter, calling the report a “government approved assessment” and a “self fulfilling prophecy masquerading as an analytical document”.

He questioned the independence of Westport itself, claiming that “every member of the steering committee is a public servant or Govt (sic) appointment” and saying that “key investment decisions about…port infrastructure cannot be driven by political ideology.”

by JUSTIN STAHL

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