Bell Bay `useless' as container port

TRYING to make Bell Bay a viable container port is a waste of money, Burnie mayor Steve Kons has said.

Alderman Kons said complaints by Northern industry groups that Bell Bay was overlooked by a recent Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team report, which declared Burnie the state's primary container port, ignored market forces that had already prompted exporters to turn away.

``Bell Bay is a useless port,'' he said.

``If it was such a proven port, it would not have withered on the vine over many years.''

Alderman Kons said Bell Bay had been abandoned by container freight companies, both national and international, because it was a greater distance from Melbourne, it was not a deep-water port and the Tamar River made for tricky navigation.

``If you are determined to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to expand a port that the customers don't want to go to, it's a waste of money,'' he said.

``There's no future in Bell Bay [for a container port].''

Alderman Kons spoke in response to an argument by transport consultant John Livermore, who writes in   The Sunday Examiner  today that Burnie will soon reach capacity and Bell Bay should be built up to complement, not replace, Burnie as a container port.

Mr Livermore joined Tasmanian Exporters Group chairman Bob Gozzi in questioning the Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team's finding that Burnie had enough capacity for 30 years of growth, saying that increasing trade volumes meant it would reach capacity in just six years.

Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said Burnie was identified as the primary port because it carried 55 per cent of Tasmania's container freight.

``Bell Bay remains an important part of Tasport's long-term strategy and, with around 200 port calls last year, will continue to operate as one of three major ports in Tasmania,'' Mr O'Byrne said.

``We see no change to that situation.''

The government announced its initial response to the freight report last month. It is expected to announce a preferred international shipper early this year.


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