Shipping the new alternative?
Ballina MP Don Page has been looking at transport alternatives to alleviate the increasing amount of freight on the Pacific Highway. With freight on the Sydney to Brisbane corridor estimated to triple in the next 20 years, he has suggested to the State and Federal governments that coastal shipping could be the answer to alleviating the pressure on our roads.
“I believe the Pacific Ocean is a perfect freight corridor,” Mr Page said. “With most of the Australian population living on the Eastern seaboard, it makes sense to look at using ships to ply freight up and down the coast. Coastal shipping would see a reduction in heavy vehicles on the Pacific Highway leading to safer roads and a decrease in road maintenance costs.”
Mr Page said that coastal shipping had been developed in the United States as an alternative, efficient, cost-effective and economically viable way of moving freight between ports. The vessels being used there were able to travel faster and were smaller than conventional ships, which made them more economically viable than the slower, larger freighters of the past. While some ships could carry up to 250 containers, others could allow for prime movers to unhook their entire trailer and leave them on the vessel. Another prime mover would hook up to the trailer at the destination port, and deliver the goods locally.
Mr Page said that shipping freight had environmental benefits.
“One ship would use less fuel than 30 trucks and greenhouse gases would be reduced,” Mr Page said. “In Europe, they have also worked hard to get clean burning engines on their ships.”
Mr Page also said that while the coalition government was committed to putting trains on our tracks, he did not believe that using the rail lines for freight transport to the Northern Rivers region was a realistic alternative.
“I’m for freight on rail but we need to show that we can take freight through on this line,” Mr Page said. “In the past, rail lines here have been used for commuter transport and they are not strong enough to take freight.
Mr Page also said that if any rail services were to be considered through our area again, that the Brisbane to Robina line would need to be improved and the associated bridges strengthened.
“In any future plans for rail transport in our region, we would need to consider funding options for track maintenance and consider whether it would need to be publicly or privately operated.”