The operator of one of the three container terminals at the Port of Melbourne, Australia’s biggest port presented an ambitious expansion plan for their container operations that could dramatically expand the capabilities of the port including handling among the largest containerships in the world. The private terminal operator’s proposal comes as port officials have been working on their long-term planning for the overall operations.
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Melbourne is a major commerce hub for Australia handling over 3.2 million TEU annually between its three terminals currently operated by International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), DP World, and Patrick. Volume was up over four percent in 2022, but critics have said Australia lags in its port expansion and ability to handle the newest and largest vessels.
Last October, Victoria International Container Terminal operated by ICTSI reported that CMA CGM had broken its own record for the largest volume containership arriving in Melbourne. The CMA CGM Estelle (109,794 dwt) with a nominal capacity of 10,926 TEU berthed at the terminal in Webb Dock. The 983-foot vessel is operating on the line’s North Europe Mediterranean Oceania service.
CMA CGM’s vessel became the largest to call in Melbourne in October 2022 (ICTSI)
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The Port of Melbourne identified an issue as older with a capacity of 7,000 TEU or smaller are retired and replaced with vessels with a capacity of 8,000 TEU or higher. Port officials have been working on their “Capacity Enhancement Program,” conducting a series of industry meetings and briefings. The port has previously said it would conduct a competitive, open-market process for a fourth terminal looking to add capacity by the mid-2030s. As part of the plan, they would likely also have to move the current operations of the shipping services to Tasmanian to a new location to make space at the Webb Dock for additional container capacity.
Ahead of these efforts, ICTSI, which is based in the Philippines and operates more than 30 terminals globally, released its plan calling for a US$343 million investment into the port of Melbourne over the next decade. According to the company, its proposal would dramatically increase efficiencies, increase capacity and permit bigger ships to call at the port. ICTSI established the Victoria terminal in 2014, and according to the company has already invested $481 million into the port operations.
They are proposing a phased development for the Webb Dock North Container Terminal creating a new automated terminal. The development would increase VICT’s container capacity to 3.7 million TEUs, providing four container vessel berths and the ability to service vessels up to 14,000 TEUs and 1,200 feet in length.
The company cites external reports and analysis of its plan saying that it would deliver significant cost savings while bringing significant capacity increases to the market sooner. They report that preliminary discussions are underway with the Port of Melbourne and the Victorian Government and other key stakeholders. ICTSI says it is confident in its plan and would be willing to present it in a competitive process run by the port. It is anticipated that the other operators would present competing proposals for the fourth terminal.
The next sessions by the port to brief the industry on its expansion efforts are scheduled for the beginning of March.