THE Port of Brisbane achieved a new record for annual container throughput in May, with more than 1 million containers moving through what is Australia’s fastest growing port.
Also the largest general cargo port in Queensland, the Port of Brisbane sits at the mouth of the Brisbane River. It has seven container berths along an 1800m quay line leased and operated by two stevedores, with 700m of general cargo wharves handling break-bulk cargo, containers, motor vehicles and other roll-on/roll-off cargo.
The port’s dry bulk terminals are used for a variety of materials including coal, grain, sugar, cement and woodchips, while the wet bulk terminals are used for crude oil and refined oil products.
The Port of Brisbane is managed and developed by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) under a 99-year lease from the Queensland Government. PBPL is owned by the Q Port Holdings consortium, comprising four of the world’s largest infrastructure investors: Global Infrastructure Partners; Industry Funds Management; QIC Global Infrastructure on behalf of its managed funds; and Tawreed Investments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
PBPL reported that its recent record result was driven by a strong increase in both imports of items such as household goods (boosted by the strong Australian dollar) and exports, with cotton and meat the standout commodities due to good growing conditions and continued high demand from Asian customers.
PBPL chief executive officer Russel Smith said the container throughput record was a significant milestone for the port.
“This caps off a decade of solid growth in container trade for the Port of Brisbane, with a compound annual growth rate of 8 per cent,” Mr Smith said in a recent media release.
“What makes this milestone all the more impressive is the fact that it’s happened despite a difficult economic environment, both domestically and overseas.
“It demonstrates the extremely robust nature of the Port of Brisbane, due to our diverse trade base, strategic location and significant land base.
“This is something we continue to successfully leverage in order to drive new and increased trade through the port.”
Mr Smith predicted that the port would see a continued growth in container handling during the next decade. He said that PBPL would focus on working with the supply and logistics chain to ensure the port was equipped to accommodate this growth.
“Our other priority is to look at ensuring sustainable port access and addressing rail limitations to avoid significant congestion problems in the future,” he said.
Port connections
The Port of Brisbane is 24km from the city’s central business district, with the Brisbane Multimodal Terminal (BMT) providing an interface between rail, road and sea transport.
The BMT has the ability to monitor freight containers as they move through the port. The electronic system links rail, shipping and container-terminal operators, providing rapid communication connections that contribute to a cost-effective and highly efficient transport service.
The integration of rail, road and sea transport, a dual-gauge rail link and the location of the BMT behind the container terminals enables the movement of large volumes of interstate and intrastate cargo into and out of the port. The BMT can also offer solutions for import and export containerised cargo, providing short-term storage for import containers and pre-receiving containers for export.
Both Pacific National and QR National run rail services to the BMT, connecting the port with major and regional Queensland centres plus Sydney and Melbourne.
As the port also has major road connections to the north, south and west of the state, PBPL is working on a project that started in 2008 to ensure safe and efficient access to the port can be maintained. This includes duplication of the Captain Bishop Bridge (the entry point to the main port complex at Fishermans Islands) and associated roadworks on the islands. The bridge is the main access point for vehicles entering and exiting the port but, according to PBPL, it would not have catered for future traffic requirements in its existing state.
Once the project is completed, Lucinda Drive will become the main thoroughfare for port traffic and Port Drive will become a secondary road. Earthworks, including the placement of fill material along Port Drive (north of Lucinda Overpass), have been completed, as has the construction of the new Captain Bishop Bridge (west)
and the new interchange at Lucinda Drive/Port Drive. Construction of a new roundabout at Port Drive/Bulk Terminals Drive is nearing completion and replacement of the east section of the existing Captain Bishop Bridge is under way.
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has also confirmed the $385 million upgrade of Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Port of Brisbane Motorway. The upgrades will deliver a dual carriageway from the existing Gateway Motorway to the start of Port Drive, ensuring reliable road access to the port.
As part of the port’s privatisation, PBPL was made responsible for the maintenance and future upgrade of Stage 3 of the motorway, which is a 3.2km public road. It is estimated that future capacity upgrades of the motorway will cost about $200 million during the next 10 years.
Berths 11 and 12 According to PBPL, $1.6 billion has been invested in capital works for the port in the last 20 years, with $724 million spent during the five-year period
to 2009. By this time, the port had commissioned container berth 10 plus the general-purpose berth for bulk and project cargoes.
In addition to committing to the Captain Bishop Bridge duplication, PBPL has also pledged to construct berths 11 and 12 and develop the award-winning Future Port Expansion area to provide a further 230 hectares of port land and increased quay line. Work is currently under way on thenew berths, which are due for completion
in the fourth quarter of 2012 (berth 11) and in 2014 (berth 12). The berths will be occupied by Hutchison Port Holdings, making the Port of Brisbane the first port in Australia to introduce a third container stevedore.
Hutchison has a network of port operations comprising 315 berths in 52 ports across 26 countries. It signed an agreement with building and engineering company Baulderstone in November last year, signalling the immediate start of civil works at berth 11. Baulderstone’s scope of works included ground improvements, in-ground infrastructure, pavements and rail beams.
In addition to the civil works, Hutchison also procured advanced container handling equipment that was expected to be delivered mid-2012. A news release stated that Hutchison was also in the process of configuring its proprietary terminal operating system, nGen, which will be deployed throughout its Australian operations, including berth 11 at the Port of Brisbane.
nGen is a modular, scalable terminal management platform that controls the entire scope of terminal operations, including ship and yard planning, gate operations, vessel operations and interactions, yard configuration and performance, overall operations monitoring, equipment utilisation, productivity and cost optimisation. nGen
was developed in-house specifically to meet the needs of Hutchison. It is scheduled for full implementation by the third quarter of 2012.
Coal terminal
According to PBPL, Queensland produces 60 per cent of Australia’s total coal exports and around 50 per cent of the world’s seaborne trade in coking coal used for steelmaking. Total coal exports through Queensland ports reached 183 million tonnes during 2009 to 2010, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year.
The 10 million tonnes per annum capacity coal terminal at the Port of Brisbane is operated by Queensland Bulk Handling (QBH), which is owned by coal producer New Hope Corporation. The terminal has been loading coal as a common user facility since 1983. It exports high-quality steaming coal distinguished by its excellent combustion and non-pollutant characteristics, which make it sought after worldwide.
The terminal has gained an international reputation as one of the nation’s most reliable coal export terminals. Its ship-loading system can handle more than 48,000t per day: operating efficiently as a result of rectangular stockpiles, an overhead stockpiling conveyor, underground reclaimers and bulldozers fitted with coal blades.
In October 2010, QBH invested $65 million in a terminal expansion to increase its stockpile capacity from 377,000t to 909,000t, with the total capacity being fully committed. The expansion project included a new stacker and sampler station plus ship-loader improvements.
According to the PBPL 2010-2011 Annual Performance Report, QBH port operations manager Kevin Rayfield, said the expansion had already been beneficial, especially as colliers had been increasing exports to make up for rail closure caused by floods in late 2010/early 2011.
“In May 2011, we received a record 398 trains carrying 761,899 tonnes, and then in June we surpassed our monthly export record with 808,543 tonnes and 11 ships,”
Mr Rayfield said.
QBH had forecast increased volumes for 2011-2012. With this in mind, the key focus area for the company was to identify opportunities for increased coal exports through the Port of Brisbane.
The Annual Performance Report stated that a number of new mines were investigating the potential for exporting coal through the Port of Brisbane, while existing customers were all forecasting significant increases in throughput during the next three to five years.


By Rachel Dally-Watkins