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Port Melbourne car shipping to get $400m upgrade

Fresh off the boat: Minister for ports Denis Napthine (left) and Victorian premier Ted Baillieu at Webb Dock in Port of Melbourne, which will be subject to a $400m expansion.

$400m Webb Dock upgrade to boost Victoria’s vehicle shipping capacity beyond 600,000

21 Jun 2012

THE Victorian government has announced a $400 million investment by the Port of Melbourne Corporation that will almost double the vehicle import/export capacity of Webb Dock, to more than 600,000 vehicles per year.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has welcomed the funding – which is in addition to the $1.2 billion Port Melbourne redevelopment plan announced in April – but the Maritime Union of Australia has reservations about the implications of combining the two.

One of the MUA’s criticisms surrounds an increased traffic load on the Westgate Freeway from extra truck movement caused by the expanded container and automotive shipment facilities – which will sit alongside a new residential development – and the lack of planned rail links to Melbourne’s expanding western suburbs.

However Minister for Ports Denis Napthine said part of the Webb Dock plan is to create space for all pre-delivery inspections (PDI) to take place on-site rather than in the western suburbs as they are now.

“At the moment, about 60 per cent of all imported vehicles are trucked across the West Gate (bridge) for PDI processing in the western suburbs with about a third of these vehicles then returned across the West Gate a second time for delivery to eastern Victoria.

“By consolidating all PDI at the Webb Dock site and utilising the new terminal's direct access to the M1 (West Gate freeway), this project will create efficiencies for the industry and encourage further investment from the private sector.”

Webb Dock receives imported cars from all over the world, as well as taking shipments of Australian-built Toyota Camry and Aurion sedans bound for export to international markets like the Middle East.

In a statement, the FCAI said the automotive industry is “looking forward to providing input to the project to ensure that a focus on cost efficiency is prevalent while delivering a state-of-the-art facility in Australia’s automotive capital”.

“The welcome decision demonstrates the Victorian Government’s willingness to find a solution to the automotive trade which best met the needs of vehicle importers and exporters while providing benefits to the Victorian community.”

Victorian premier Ted Baillieu said the Webb Dock expansion, in combination with the planned new container terminal and expanded capacity at Swanston Dock, will create 1100 direct jobs and secure many more across the state.

He added that construction work at Webb Dock will create a further 420 jobs.

“The automotive aspect of the port expansion project will see the construction of 920 metres of new wharves, more than 1,000 supporting piles and 24,000 square metres of concrete decking.”

A bidding process to appoint operators for the new automotive terminal and PDI sites will begin in the second half of this year.

“The auto industry employs more than 40,000 people across Victoria, and building world class automotive facilities at the Port of Melbourne helps protect these jobs and grow Victoria's economy,” said Mr Baillieu.

“Despite tough global economic conditions, Australian-made cars, parts and engines continue to be exported around the world with Toyota dispatching ships carrying (Toyota) Camrys and other models every week from the Port of Melbourne.”

A proposal to move the state’s automotive shipment hub to Geelong, the state’s second-largest port, was rejected early last month following a feasibility study launched in February 2011.

When the decision was reached, Dr Napthine said a number of concerns about moving shipping to Geelong had been raised by the automotive industry.

“These concerns include the lack of suitable land at the Port of Geelong which is required to conduct pre-delivery inspections on imported vehicles as well as to consolidate and prepare vehicles for export.

“Access to the shipping channel also proved to be an issue with ships facing delays due to restrictions in windy conditions, coupled with the fact the channel is one-way.

“The automotive industry made it clear that their preference was to relocate to a new location at Webb Dock where there is sufficient land and round-the-clock access for shipping lines.”

Opposition spokesman Tim Pallas accused the government of giving “false hope” to Geelong, where the move would have injected an estimated $200 million into the economy, with the creation of 1000 jobs.

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