Shipping out

Freo port to wind up as freight heads to Kwinana

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk, transport minister Rita Saffioti, premier Mark McGowan and ports minister Alannah MacTiernan at Fremantle harbour this week: the container ship in the background will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. Photo by Steve Grant.

FREMANTLE council has lost the battle to retain at least part of its working port.

The McGowan government announced this week that Freo’s inner harbour is to be wound down completely – possible as early as 2032 — with port operations shifted to a modern facility in Kwinana.

Premier Mark McGowan said Fremantle port had served the state well for 100 years, but it was time to set the state’s freight needs up for the next century.

“This harbour is going to fill – it’s going to fill,” Mr McGowan said dockside on Tuesday morning.

Funnels trucks

“It’s in the middle of a residential area and it funnels all of the trucks right into the middle of Perth.

“What you have to do is get the traffic out and get a modern, efficient port that meets the long-term needs of the state; that’s what successful countries and cities around the world do.

“The transport links to make [Fremantle] port operate for the next 50 years are about $8 billion worth, combined with upgrades to North Quay.

“To build a new port in Kwinana is about half that cost, so clearly the economics point to a new port being the sensible option, not just financially, not just economically, but in terms of getting traffic and trucks out of the harbour city.”

The Westport Taskforce, which recommended the Kwinana option, has suggested Fremantle might be used for a further 15 years after 2032 as part of a phased shift, but Fremantle mayor has urged the premier not to abandon the “port city”.

“For more than 120 years the inner harbour has been central to Fremantle’s identity as a port city, and the employment and activity associated with the operations of the inner harbour are a critical component of the Fremantle region’s economy,” Dr Pettitt said.

“While we recognise the need for an expanded role for the outer harbour at Kwinana, the council has been very firm in its view that the inner harbour should be retained as a working port.”

Dr Pettitt said the decision would have massive implications for Fremantle.

Compensate

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the state government what they have in mind to compensate Fremantle for the loss of such an important asset and how they plan to support the Fremantle economy during the transition to the outer harbour.”

The council has called for the Victoria Quay redevelopment to be sped up and car important and other freight shipments transferred to another location as soon as possible.

The decision also puts the McGowan government on a collision course with the powerful union representing wharfies, which sees it as an act of treachery against workers who are likely to be redundant in an automated new port.

The Maritime Union of Australia, a division of the FCMMEU, slammed the decision as a waste of money “at a time when coronavirus devastates the economy”.

National president and state secretary Chris Cain said the money could go to a new hospital to replace the asbestos-riddled Royal Perth.

“Entire industries are being shut down and Western Australians are out of work,” Mr Cain said.

“We need to focus on protecting jobs and assisting the recovery, these issue are what is important to working-class people.”

Ports minister Alannah MacTiernan acknowledged it would be a highly automated port, but said that would help deliver jobs beyond the facility’s fenceline.

Ms MacTiernan said WA firms were competing in an international market, and only a modern, mechanised port would provide the efficiency to help them thrive and expand.

The Conservation Council of WA called the Westport recommendation the most “environmentally sound” of the options under consideration, although an expanded Fremantle harbour – knocked out 

of contention early in the process – scored much better marks on that front.

CCWA spokesperson Maggie Wood called for 

“major” environmental assessment of the proposed Kwinana port, including the proposed freight lines which pass close to The Spectacles along Anketell Road. 

By STEVE GRANT

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