Southern Ports amalgamation deemed a success

Bunbury Wellington Economic Alliance chairman Ian Telfer said the amalgamation of Southern Ports was a success.

The merger was put back into the spotlight last week after the state government completed its review into the intended benefits of the amalgamation.

In 2014 Bunbury, Albany and Esperance Ports were combined to create the Southern Ports Authority.

Mr Telfer said since the merger he had seen Bunbury’s efficiency improve.

Improved availability of port infrastructure and better decision-making are among the benefits deemed ‘partially achieved’ by the review.

With the benefits recognised, the minister confirmed there would not be a case to de-amalgamate Southern Ports.

The review found higher governance standards and efficiency gains to have also been a benefit of the amalgamation.

Despite the positive findings, the report did uncover minor problems including a deficiency in change management processes and a strong perception that the amalgamation had weakened links with the local community, particularly in Albany and Esperance.

There were 10 recommendations which came out of the report which included asking Southern Ports to consider having a locally based general manager for each of the ports.

Currently, Albany and Bunbury have the same general manager while Esperance has its own.

Mr Telfer said having locally based general managers was not a huge issue for Bunbury but could understand the concern for one in Albany.

Another recommendation was for Southern Ports to actively engage with the Westport Taskforce regarding the role of Bunbury Port in servicing the metropolitan freight task. 

The taskforce was announced in September 2017 with the aim to outline a long-range vision to guide the planning, development and growth of both the Inner Harbour at Fremantle, the future Outer Harbour at Kwinana and the Bunbury Port.

Mr Telfer said this was an exciting opportunity for Bunbury Port and could see it as being part of the solution for diverting freight from Fremantle to Bunbury.

He said Bunbury was unique as it was currently underutilised with plenty of land for extra infrastructure.

“We have the land and capacity and just need the investment which will have a flow on effect to community,” he said.

Mr Telfer said the Bunbury Geographe Growth Plan was also an exciting prospect as it looked at how the Port could grow its investment opportunities. One of the priorities within the plan was the Kemerton lithium conversion plant project.