Ballina MP floats roadship concept

A NEW breed of cargo ship will return Australia’s coastal waters to their traditional role as one of the country’s most important freight routes if Ballina MP Don Page has his way.

Mr Page said the new ships – called ‘roadships’ – were much smaller and faster than conventional cargo ships used to carry freight over seas and oceans.

They could carry about 55 containers, were quick enough to make the trip between Sydney and Brisbane overnight, required only a basic dock to load and unload, had a much lighter environmental impact than trucks, and were already being used to ship goods up and down the coasts of the US and New Zealand.

“That’s something I’ve taken up with the Federal Government and keen to see happen,” Mr Page said.

Because the roadships were so much smaller than conventional cargo ships they would not be restricted to stopping at major ports and would be able to stop at ports and docks along the way. Mr Page suggested Yamba, at the mouth of the Clarence River, might be one such dock.

“We don’t need to convert ports for them,” Mr Page said. “They don’t need – or even want big ports like Port Kembla or Newcastle, because they don’t want to have to queue to get in – they want to drop their cargoes and keep going.

“The infrastructure needed is relatively cheap compared to other port facilities and there are a lot of benefits.” The first of those benefits was reducing the strain of transport trucks traversing the Pacific Highway, although Mr Page said the highway would always carry freight traffic.

He said putting freight on the sea was a plank in a wider approach to managing freight, along with improved roads and moving more freight onto rail.

The need for alternatives to trucks as the main way of moving freight was growing.

“We’ve been told by the (Australian) Bureau (of Statistics) that transport will see a doubling in road freight over the next 25 years,” he said.

Mr Page said that for the roadships to go ahead and work effectively, there needed to be agreement between at least the Commonwealth, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Once that agreement was in place, governments could call tenders and the private sector could take care of the rest.

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