Time to rethink freight in the Pilbara

Peter LongPilbara News
Dampier Port.
Camera IconDampier Port. Credit: Pilbara News, Peter de Kruijff

The Pilbara is located in one of the most remote parts of the world, and while we export many hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore, salt, gas and other commodities, the facilities and equipment to achieve this and the necessities of domestic life must all be transported in.

But while we are remote from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, we are closer than any of these cities to Asia. Karratha is 2834km from Singapore, while Perth is 3912km and Sydney a whopping 6302km away.

Yet 90 per cent of the freight that comes to the Pilbara comes via Perth. It is shipped some 1250km south of us, then trucked right back up again.

If we could bring this freight in directly to Karratha, there would be a transport saving of more than 2500km.

To investigate the types of saving we could expect from a direct freight service, the City of Karratha engaged a consultant to perform a detailed investigation.

The State Government, through the Pilbara Development Commission, performed a related financial impact study.

The reports were received last week and provide some astonishing results:

-Each year, more than 6.5 mega tonnes of freight moves in and out of the Pilbara — 74 per cent of which is incoming.

-Cost savings of up to 50 per cent and scheduled savings of up to 70 per cent could be achieved by shipping freight directly to and out of Dampier.

-There is sufficient demand for direct sea freight to major Asian ports, particularly Singapore.

The implications of this are enormous, creating opportunities for a range of new businesses and decreasing the costs of some items to below that of Perth.

The City will continue to work with State Government agencies and other interested parties to promote the opportunities identified by these studies.

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