Photo: Harbour Cranes; Source: Port of Newcastle

Port of Newcastle pushes forward on its diversification agenda

Australia’s Port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal export port, has welcomed two Liebherr mobile harbour cranes intended for the port’s container handling operations.

The German-built LHM 550 cranes sailed into Newcastle Harbour on Tuesday morning, August 2, onboard the general cargo ship UHL Fighter, after leaving the Port of Rostock in late June.

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said the $28.4-million investment marks a significant increase in container handling capabilities at the port’s Mayfield 4 berth. 

“Industry has been very clear – they don’t want to have to pay more to send their container exports to Port Botany or Port of Brisbane when they could be taking advantage of Port of Newcastle’s enviable road and rail network and potentially save millions of dollars a year,” Carmody said.

“These two new mobile harbour cranes will allow us to move cargo and containers within the limits that the Port Commitment Deeds (PCD) bind us, so that we can give our customers a viable alternative.

“As a global trade gateway and the world’s largest coal export port, diversification isn’t an option, it’s a must, so we are taking what action we can while continuing to advocate for the removal of the PCD.”

The 550-tonne Liebherr mobile harbour cranes feature can handle a diverse mix of project cargo, including wind turbines, timber, steel coils, transformers, and mining equipment.

They also have the capability to work in tandem for heavy lifts and lift two 20ft or one 40ft container in a single move. The cranes will undergo testing over the coming month and are expected to begin operations in September. 

Diversification agenda

The crane investment is seen as a critical step forward in the ports’ diversification agenda to unlock trade opportunities within regional and rural New South Wales.

The port’s diversification plans are deeply rooted in the need to adapt to the ongoing global energy transition, pushing it to move away from coal by becoming a deep-sea terminal and a green hydrogen hub.

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Under its Port Master Plan 2040, the port has identified the next steps for its transition, saying that even though coal exports provide a stable foundation for its growth, the port needs to diversify its trade base to meet the demands of its customers.

Nevertheless, the ongoing geopolitical developments are signaling that the golden days of coal might not be over yet despite the global push to end coal production to cut CO2 emissions. According to the latest prediction from IEA, the world’s consumption of coal is set to rise slightly in 2022, taking it back to the record level it reached nearly a decade ago.

The world’s continued burning of large amounts of coal is heightening climate concerns, as coal is the largest single source of energy-related CO2 emissions, IEA said.

“Worldwide coal consumption rebounded by about 6% in 2021 as the global economy recovered rapidly from the initial shock of the Covid pandemic. That sharp rise contributed significantly to the largest ever annual increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions in absolute terms, putting them at their highest level in history,” the report shows.

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Path to net zero

Port of Newcastle has started 2022 powered by 100% renewable energy power, having decarbonized its operations to deliver upon its sustainability commitments set in 2020.

Namely, the port signed a retail power purchase deal with Iberdrola to have direct linkages with the Bodangora Wind Farm in the Orana Region of New South Wales.

The move is expected to reduce carbon emissions in the port by almost 5,000 cubic tonnes, which is equivalent to planting 80,000 trees each year.

Under its ESG Strategy, the port has committed to becoming net zero by 2040.