NSW Ports invests $120m to boost Port Botany rail capacity

NSW Ports is to invest $120 million to boost ‘on-dock’ rail infrastructure capacity at Port Botany’s three container terminals, with works beginning sometime next year.

Investment will be staged, with stevedores being required to invest in rail operating equipment to meet target terminal capacities.

Stage 1 involves Patrick’s terminal, with other stages aiming to deliver the same outcome at each of the DP World Australia and Hutchison terminals, in line with the port master plan.

To fund the investment, NSW Ports will implement from July 1 a “modest increase” of $3.08 per TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) in wharfage fees on full imports and exports. These are paid ultimately by cargo owners who are already exposed to the burden of increasing stevedore infrastructure surcharges.

“This has been spread over the long-term to minimise the wharfage increase and will be removed once the cost of the investment has been recovered,” NSW Ports said.

The announcement comes about two years after Port Botany’s truck numbers began exceeding those servicing Port of Melbourne, the nation’s largest container port, and in the midst of a decline in Port Botany’s freight on rail rate that peaked in 2016-17 at around 17 per cent.

Stage 1 aims to double rail capacity from 750,000 for 1.5 million TEU containers.

Patrick terminal trains serviced are to rise from 16 to 32 a day, with a view to also covering regional cargo needs, while turnaround times at the four sidings are to see a 33 per cent turnaround time reduction through automated rail mounted gantries.

“The growth of containers on rail is a key objective in NSW Ports’ Masterplan, to cater for the growing trade needs of NSW Ports,” said Marika Calfas, NSW Ports CEO.

“This investment will build rail capability at the port, supporting the government’s investment in completing the Port Botany rail duplication and ongoing investments in large-scale intermodal rail logistics centres at Enfield and Moorebank.

“Over the next four years, NSW Ports will invest $120 million on Stage 1 of this uplift to create new on-dock rail capacity at Patrick’s Port Botany Terminal. The new rail terminal will ultimately deliver one million TEU capacity.

“In time, NSW Ports will invest at the other two container terminals. Increasing rail capacity at the port means a faster, cheaper, more sustainable way for exporters and importers to get their product to market.”

NSW Ports highlights that the investment aims reduce the growth in truck movements around the port.

When fully operational, it is expected to reduce truck kilometres travelled in Sydney by at least 10 million per year. This will save an estimated two million litres of diesel per year at least, said to be the equivalent to a net reduction of more than 5,400 tonnes a year in CO2 emissions.

Work will begin next year and is planned for completion by 2023. Rail operations at Patrick are expected to continue during the construction period. The initial works will commence at the Patrick facility, but will eventually include all three stevedoring terminals at Port Botany.