The Storm Ahead for Ports

By Ramsay, Randolph | Business Asia, November 2000 | Go to article overview

The Storm Ahead for Ports


Ramsay, Randolph, Business Asia


Australia's ports have a two-pronged challenge ahead of them -- to fully integrate themselves into government planning and to make sure the community is fully aware of their importance.

FULLY INTEGRATING ports into government transport and environment planning and further informing the community of their importance to the economy will be the major challenges facing Australia's ports in the next few years, delegates at an industry conference were told.

Australia's leading port executives and marine regulatory authorities gathered for the 37th Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities' (AAPMA) biennial conference recently to discuss the major topics of concern facing ports. The conference, hosted by the Fremantle Port Authority and held in Perth last month, featured local and international speakers.

AAPMA president John Hayes, reiterating a point which has frustrated the ports community for years, told delegates that the importance and significance of ports were still not recognised by federal or state governments or in many regional areas, even though ports account for over 90 per cent of trade in and out of the country.

"Ports are major economic generators both as a result of the activities of the port corporation and port service providers and the communities they serve directly," Hayes said.

"But there is also a very significant derived economic generation effect through a wider range of communities involving those groups that contribute to trade."

When it comes to government of all levels, Australia's ports are caught in the unenviable position of having too much government involvement in some areas and not enough in others.

AAPMA executive director John Hirst, speaking to Business Asia/Overseas Trading after the conference, said many ports, particularly ones in capital cities, suffered from being too "politicised" by their various state governments, resulting in conflict between the port's aims and a government's political and budget objectives.

"It varies from state to state, but ports have become terribly political -- there's an enormous level of political and bureaucratic influence," he said.

"Ports are always having to look over their shoulder all the time and ask themselves, well, what does the Minister really want?"

At the same time, Hirst says, ports are kept out of the loop in regards to government planning and discussions on transport policy -- a situation that occurs at both the state and federal level.

AAPMA's Hayes says if this "oversight" is not addressed soon, Australia's trade competitiveness could be at risk.

"Ports generally do not have a high ranking in transport policy development or analysis, nor are they proactively considered as part of the transport chain in many states and at the federal level," he said.

"There are often initiatives taken to look at land transport interfaces, logistics, etc., but rarely does there appear any direct or explicit linkage to a port.

"Furthermore, ports often have a low ranking in state Ministerial hierarchies. More often there are political and bureaucratic directions to ports that may satisfy short-term political needs but do not meet longer term requirements and create negative influences on ports which are expected to operate as a commercial business and meet market needs. …

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