For many years there has been controversy and uncertainty over whether there should be a port at Kwinana and the effect future port plans would have on current freight routes. In what many would hope is the final work on the matter, the independent Westport Taskforce, has produced what may be described as a ‘visionary plan’ for a future container port.
The Westport: Future port recommendations stage 2 report (Report) recommends two port options, both of which aim to increase freight capacity to meet long-term forecast demand. The two options involve the transition of trade from Fremantle to a new port in Kwinana. Option D2 recommends transitioning all freight to Kwinana over time, while Option B recommends moving all freight to Kwinana at once.
Why it is proposed to move the Port
2018-19, 770,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (the unit of measurement for containers) (TEU) were handled by the Fremantle port. By 2068, that number is expected to grow to 3.8 million TEUs.
The Report details six primary reasons for having a new port.
- Increasing road congestion
The areas surrounding the Fremantle port are experiencing growing density levels without increases to road capacity. Removing port traffic will increase social amenity.
- Bigger ships
As larger ships begin to service Perth a wider range of accommodation will be needed. This will range from minor upgrades to the deepening of the Inner Harbour channel.
- Asset optimisation
The infrastructure assets currently used at the Fremantle Harbour will reach their optimum asset life in the next 20 to 30 years.
- Land value
The ‘highest and best use’ of the land currently used for industrial purposes is forecast to change to residential and commercial.
- Social licence
The noise, vibration and emission from the existing port will become less compatible with residential areas.
The regulatory and technological environment will at some point necessitate a rethinking of the port.
This recommendation is that a port be built in the Cockburn Sound. Option B would be constructed in 3 stages:
Stage 0: Meet short term freight growth with upgrades at Fremantle.
Stage 1: Construction of the Kwinana port. Stage 1 of the Kwinana port could be built to manage up to 1.52 million TEUs.
Stage 2: If ultra large container vessels begin to service Australian ports, the Cockburn Sound access channel can be deepened and widened as necessary.
Stage 3: The capacity of the Kwinana port can be increased to 4.5 million TEUs to meet the forecast growth in freight.
About two thirds of the capacity of the Kwinana port will be serviced by road, through a dedicated freight corridor along Anketell Road and Tonkin Highway. The existing South Western main line rail line with accommodate the other one third.
This option is forecast to cost $4.7 bn.
Option D2 is similar to Option B, but instead provides for Fremantle and Kwinana to share the receipt of freight in the short term. The receipt of freight at Kwinana will then gradually increase.
Option D2 is the preferred option as it maximises the value of the Fremantle port, while still transitioning into the same long-term state as Option B.
This option is forecast to cost $4 bn.
Suggested benefits of Options B and D2
The capacity of the proposed Kwinana fort in Options B and D2 exceeds forecast demand and future-proofs the receival of shipping freight in Perth for the next 50 years.
The benefits of Options B and D2 are:
- Kwinana is more a more flexible location, with less constraints imposed by the land use of the surrounds;
- Traffic associated with the Kwinana port will be facilitated by Anketell Road and Tonkin Highway and thereby avoid suburban areas; and
- Fremantle and the Inner Harbour will be open to redevelopment.
The Report is part of a major undertaking and will take some digesting. There are many points of conflict between advocates for the status quo and supporters of the new port. Running in parallel will be a range of issues that will require further investigation, including environmental, traffic, social and logistical issues. Many of the issues have been aired before and a number of potential plans have not survived the electoral cycles and other forces that hit endeavours of this level. It is hoped that this Report and its future implementation will bring the certainty that has been missing in the past.