Government decides not to look for new operators for its existing box terminals while a Taskforce considers the future of Fremantle as a box port.
The Western Australia Government has decided not to allow new operators to bid for leases to operate the existing container terminals at the Port of Fremantle. “The tender for new leases to operate container terminals at the Port of Fremantle has been narrowed to the current two operators, DP World and Patrick, with the process to now move to the negotiation stage,” read a Government statement.
The fate of current leases, which are due to expire in June 2019, has been unclear since the previous state government announced it planned to sell Fremantle Port in 2015. That process fell apart in the face of concerns about a monopoly operator raised buy the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), political opposition to the sale, and plans to push container handling out of its current location in Fremantle’s inner harbour. Against this backdrop “it had not been possible to progress the granting of new leases,” the current Government noted this week.
In moving to negotiate directly with the incumbent operators the Government said it intends to grant new seven-year leases, with options for extensions for two further periods up to a total of 21 years “at the discretion of Fremantle Ports, and dependent upon State Government decisions arising from the Westport: Port and Environs Strategy. Leases would commence on July 1, 2019 and end on June 30, 2026 (or on later dates if options were granted).”
"Securing suitable container terminal leases is important to the economy of Western Australia”, said the Minster for Ports Alannah MacTiernan. “Negotiations will focus on the ability to address investment and operations plans to cater for expected trade growth in the years ahead, but also the efficiency of land transport movements of containers to and from the port.
Fremantle handled 788,000 TEU in 2018. The current terminals could handle at least twice that amount, but there is strong opposition to the increased truck traffic growth will bring, and a push from some quarters to “de-industrialise” the existing port area. The Westport strategy report currently being considered by a government Taskforce identified eight options for future development, including moving all cargo traffic to new terminals at Kwinana or Bunbury, or keeping container operations at their current location.
The Taskforce is receiving submissions until January 21 and expects to release its final strategy in late 2019, with “precise location, sizes, timing and operations for the government to consider”.