Aerial photo of the Port of Melbourne container terminal

The Victorian Government has released a commercial strategy for Victoria’s ports, setting out a 30-year framework to ensure a productive and efficient ports system. 

Navigating our Port Futures: The Victorian Commercial Ports Strategy is the result of the Independent Review of the Victorian Ports System, the most extensive ports reform review process in decades, with port authorities, transport operators and industry groups providing insight and feedback.

Navigating our Port Futures is a 30-year vision to achieve a commercial ports sector that’s responsive to market demands; is well planned and balances the needs of industry and community; is efficient, productive and resilient even as the global environment becomes more volatile; is safe and operates with clear roles and responsibilities.

Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne, said the Victorian Government is driving the biggest ports reform program in Victoria in decades. 

“With this strategy critical to protect the future of our commercial ports and achieve a sector that’s responsive to market demands,” Ms Horne said.

“This strategy will ensure our ports operate in an efficient and productive way to support the system, meet the needs of all Victorians and continue to grow our economy.”

Improvements at the port include on-dock rail infrastructure at Swanson Dock linking the Port Rail Shuttle Network, shifting more of the metropolitan freight task onto rail and taking thousands more trucks off local roads.

Work is also underway on a ‘port supply chain guide’ to confirm roles and responsibilities of Port managers and promote shared understanding across the sector.

The Victorian Government began implementing several key changes recommended by the review in 2021, including establishing Ports Victoria, which combined the Victorian Regional Channels Authority and Victorian Ports Corporation Melbourne. 

Further reforms to pilotage and towage services have also been initiated.

The majority of actions to support the objectives laid out in the strategy have an implementation timeframe of up to two, three or five years and will be reviewed and updated every five years to ensure they continue to service Victoria’s growing needs.

Approximately $26 billion of locally produced and manufactured exports pass through Victoria’s commercial ports annually, handling almost a quarter of Australia’s total food and fibre exports.

Strategy recognises ports’ important role in economy 

The Victorian Government is already working to meet these objectives – including continuing to work closely with the Port of Melbourne (PoM) to support the growth of the port and meet market needs. 

PoM CEO, Saul Cannon, said the strategy is a welcome recognition of the important role Victoria’s ports play in the economic wellbeing of Victoria and the surrounding regional areas of both mainland Australia and Tasmania. 

“We believe the Strategy provides a strong framework for the ongoing operational success and development of PoM, and in turn this will help ensure we can continue to meet the trade needs of Victoria for decades to come,” Mr Cannon said.

Mr Cannon welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment to continuing to work with PoM to support planning for the next tranche of container capacity.

“Based on our current assessment the next tranche of international container terminal capacity will be required at the port around 2030 if we are to meet Victoria’s forecast trade demand and we will be working closely with the Victorian Government and port stakeholders in the years ahead to deliver the infrastructure needed.” 

The Victorian Government has a key role in ensuring that Victoria’s transport system is capable of meeting the rapidly growing freight task.

“PoM will continue to invest along with industry and government to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the port supply chain,” Mr Cannon said.

“PoM has already invested more than $370 million inside the port gate and we anticipate further capital investment of an estimated $2 billion over the next 10-15 years.”

The Strategy also supports PoM’s objectives for land use planning for new road and rail network capacity needed to support the growth of trade volumes at Webb Dock.

“PoM supports the Victorian Government’s objective for more freight on rail with a number of projects underway, we look forward to continuing our work with the Victorian Government to build a successful port rail supply chain,” Mr Cannon said.

Increased use of rail to move containers that come into Webb Dock would reduce truck movements on the road network – where one truck hauls one to four containers, one train can move up to 84 containers. 

PoM is already investing more than $125 million in the Port Rail Transformation Project in the Swanson Dock Precinct to increase port rail capacity.

With freight volumes expected to more than double over the next 30 years, safe and efficient operations at Victoria’s four ports remains key to the state’s economic growth.

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