Photo: Bushfires in Australia; Image Courtesy: Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Cruise Ships Skip Australia’s Port of Eden amid Raging Bush Fires

Operations at the Australian small seaport of Eden have been impacted by the major bush fires raging across the South Coast region of New South Wales, threatening the area.

Two passenger ships that were scheduled to call at the port over the past week canceled their visits as they sought to minimize the risk to their passengers’ safety, GAC Australia said.

Port of Eden is the southernmost deepwater harbor in NSW and is situated equidistant between Sydney and Melbourne.

The port hosts three wharves: a privately owned woodchip terminal, multi-user Navy wharfs, and the breakwater wharf. The major users of the port are the Royal Australian Navy, wood chippers, cargo ships for logs and cruise ships.

Based on the latest updates, woodchip stockpiles at the woodchip mill in Eden plus the logs for export are reported to be on fire.

Allied Natural Wood Exports (ANWE), a wood products export marketing and logistics company, said it suffered considerable fire damage to its wood chip export facility located at Two-Fold Bay in Eden, in the early hours of Sunday the 5th January.

“The full extent of the damage to the stock and equipment will be assessed once the fire threat has eased and plans are being put in place for temporary and permanent resumption of operations.

“ANWE remains committed to resuming normal operations but also to its previous commitment of investing in a sawmill and briquette plant at the Eden site and in doing so bring further opportunities to the people of the region,” ANWE said.

According to GAC Australia, Eden is the only port whose operations are being affected by the bushfires at this stage.

Relief Efforts

Meanwhile, the Royal Australian Navy has been busy with response efforts to the affected areas in Australia, helping evacuate thousands of residents to safety.

The Royal Australian Navy’s largest ship, Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Adelaide has joined HMAS Choules and MV Sycamorein support of Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20.

Australian seafarers have also been taking a significant role in relief efforts.

Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the crew of the Norwegian-flagged Far Saracen supply vessel was tasked by the Victorian Emergency Co-ordinator to deliver much-needed relief supplies to 4,000 people stranded by bushfires in the Victorian town of Mallacoota.

“Australian and Kiwi seafarers were the first on the scene with much needed supplies of food, water and diesel,”  Crumlin said.

“While the Federal Government was resisting calls to activate the Australia’s Defence Forces, our seafarers were able to get those supplies to Mallacoota a full 24 hours before the first naval vessel arrived in the area.

“This was an important mission for a ship which is usually engaged in the resupply of off-shore rigs, so they are well versed in the logistics of resupply.

“In this case their efforts not only took the pressure off a population of locals and holiday-makers stranded by the bushfires, but also brought diesel into Mallacoota to power generators and fuel CFA fire trucks.”

As informed, the civilian crews of the training vessel MV Sycamore and the supply vessel Far Senator and the Sealink Kangaroo Island Ferries are also doing their bit to back up fire-fighting efforts and relief.

Crumlin added that Western Australia was currently cut off from the rest of the country because fire had closed the highway across the Nullarbor and that shipping would be needed to maintain supply links until road transport could get through.

“Our island nation’s blue highway is a proven alternative however the lack Australian coastal shipping capacity prevents this from being an option,” he said.

“At a time of national crisis like the bushfire emergency, the need for an Australian merchant fleet has never been clearer.”