Let me add a bit of what I think is realism to various articles and letters in the Sentinel-Times about the rights and wrongs of the expansion of the Port of Hastings.
I share their concerns. The expansion of a port like Hastings will mean substantial change. Some of the unintended side-effects will be onerous, and some will be a bonus. That is the nature of change.
The decision has been delayed for many decades, but the question is still being asked. Is the expansion of Hastings necessary?
During the last 40 years, many major ports around the world have been relocated, mainly to cope with containerisation and the economies of scale which means ever larger ships.
London, which historically was not a small port, moved to Tilbury and Ipswich. Tokyo and Osaka/Kobe have built massive reclaimed island-ports in their bays.
Australian ports have also been moved. Brisbane has moved major port activities to Fishermans Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River. Sydney has moved cargo activities to Port Botany, Newcastle and Port Kembla. Adelaide now operates through Outer Harbour instead of Port Adelaide.
When I first went to sea in the 60s, a large cargo ship would carry less than 10,000 tons of crates, boxes, barrels, bags, bales and other loose items. Cars were slung and lifted on board one at a time. It took a full day to prepare to load a ‘heavy lift’ of 20 tons. It took weeks to load a ship.
Specially designed car ships can now discharge thousands of cars to a wharf in a single day. Full 20 foot containers weigh as much as 30 tonnes and a ship might carry more than 10,000 containers.
Thousands of empty containers also need to be repositioned around the world. The world of shipping is getting bigger.
Melbourne today, after the much maligned recent dredging, is still not capable of berthing and working the biggest of ships.
Our imports are light and our vital exports are heavy. We need deep water to allow for maximum export capacity. We also need space, lots of space for an ever increasing volume of cargo.
Noise and trucks are unpopular to residents living near ports. Like it or not, the people who live in Melbourne will want the port to move.
When Mort Dock, the local shipbuilding yard in Balmain NSW, closed and new residents arrived they didn’t like the noise of container handling and trucks in their local streets so Mort Dock closed.
The planned expansion of the Port at Webb Dock was canned years ago. Station and Princes Piers were once the Victoria’s biggest cargo wharfs. Vic. Dock, N. and S. Wharfs are all now part of ‘Docklands’ where ships no longer go.
Melbourne is geographically, beautifully located, right in the centre of Victoria. That is a strong argument to keep it active, but there are issues of space, depth of water and shifting logistic needs.
Geelong, served by a long dredged channel, has limited depth of water. The west of Port Phillip is shallow, and while massive dredging could provide spoil for a port island in Port Phillip, the onerous task of future and contentious deeper dredging of the South Channel and the Rip make that idea unviable.
The fact is that the Port Of Melbourne is cramped and must expand and thus will move. Public pressure and logistics will force that outcome, so where will it go?
Where can a deeper port be, while remaining central and connected to most of Victoria? Port Phillip appears to be out of contention, Tidal Inlet and Portland are not suitable. The answer is Western Port.
Western Port has deep water and easy access with tidal extras and easy dredging. The port will also need lots of level land and good road and rail links. Hastings area can fit those needs.
The natural environment of Western Port must be considered and protected. The port is not responsible for siltation from the Lang Lang River and the loss of mangrove and seagrass should be addressed at an industrial level. Such projects might be included in the Port Expansion Project.
I suggest a shift of argument from ‘No port at Hastings’ to support of ‘the best large port at Hastings’.
Peter Brown, Glen Forbes.