THE success of Gage Roads on Victoria Quay has set the scene for the next stage of the historic precinct’s redevelopment, says Fremantle Ports CEO Michael Parker.
Despite last weekend’s hiccup of hosting a Covid spreader event that saw premier Mark McGowan dodge isolation by a mere 15 minutes, Mr Parker said the pub and brewery had been a game changer in bringing people onto the port.
“I think it’s one of a kind where you’ve got an old shed like that … it’s basically all brewery and you can sit out there and watch the ships go in and out of the port: I don’t know where else you’d get a backdrop like that,” Mr Parker said.
With a younger demographic and more families being attracted to the old quay, the port next month starts a $6 million upgrade of C-Shed before it’s put out to test the market.
Also looming is the state government’s decision on where a major film studio will sit, with the CEO acknowledging the port put in a submission suggesting the original location needed a rethink.
“We can work with it as a port with certain adjustments.
“We’ve been really clear as we went through that we support the development of Victoria Quay … but we need to do it in such a way that it doesn’t impact our ability to continue to run the port,” Mr Parker says, indicating a full deck of cars that’s just come off a roll-on, roll-off ship.
The port has also rolled out new wayfaring signs as part of a $500,000 plan to improve connectivity to Fishing Boat Harbour, including a walkway
past the WA Maritime Museum and through the Tafe campus. Mr Parker says they’re hoping a cash-strapped council will pitch in to fill in the “gap” through Arthur Head reserve.
“I think if you talk to gauge roads, and you talk to the Maritime Museum, and anyone else who wants to invest money here, they want this to be a place that’s accessible.”
Mr Parker is expecting cruise ships to gradually return in around 12 months, pointing to a recent advert for a cruise from Fremantle to Singapore in March 2023.
He says the break has given them the opportunity to upgrade the Fremantle Passenger Terminal with new lifts and escalators.
“So with about a week’s notice of cruise vessels getting the green light to come in, we can actually open the passenger terminal up again and be very much sort of open open for business.”
Of course the big question surrounding Freo’s port is its future following the McGowan government’s decision to move container trade to the Outer Harbour, but Mr Parker says there will always be a need for a metropolitan port, it’s just Fremantle’s might look somewhat different to today.
“I think it’s just a really exciting opportunity to design what that metropolitan port needs to be for the next 100 years.
“We’re now working with the Westport committee and government in not just talking about sort of when and how do the containers transfer there, but also what happens with the other trade? What happens with livestock? What happens with the Breakbulk cargo? What happens with the roll-on, roll-off vessels?”
Whatever the port looks like, Mr Parker wants it to be more sustainable, with the authority just releasing its new strategic plan which sets an ambitious target of net zero scope 1 and 2 emissions (that lets them off the hook for cruise and container ship smog).
“So that so that’s electricity that we use here; it’s other fuels like diesel, it’s also things like, what is the the shoreside infrastructure that you need to help support ships when they come in with different fuel sources? Our own fleet, right?
“I would love for us in the next 18 to 24 months to have an electric truck going down Leach Highway at two o’clock in the morning, fully loaded with containers, and the community wouldn’t know about it.”
But rail also remains a priority, with the port setting an all-time record in January after getting 23.9 per cent of all containers onto trains.
Mr Parker says when the old Fremantle Traffic Bridge is replaced and the port gets its own dedicated freight line, it could see more trains, but fewer during the sleep-disturbing hours of the morning.
by STEVE GRANT