Port of Newcastle breaks record for amount of coal loaded in one day

 PORT Waratah Coal Services loaded an Australian record of 495,000tonnes of coal on Monday, the second such high-water mark in two weeks.

PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy revealed the record-breaking effort at a Newcastle Business Club lunch on Tuesday, where he was one of four port leaders to report optimistic predictions for the Hunter’s ship-borne trade.

Despite the well-known slump in coal prices, Mr du Plooy said Australia was doing better than other coal-producing nations.

He said Newcastle was likely to export about as much coal in 2015 as it did last year, while volumes from Indonesia, one of Australia’s biggest competitors, had fallen by ‘‘about 20per cent year on year’’.

Port of Newcastle’s executive manager of trade and business development, Peter Francis, said the privatised port operator had ‘‘some very strong drivers for growth’’, including the development of up to 200hectares of vacant port-side land.

Port of Newcastle is a 50/50 joint venture between the Westpac-backed Hastings Fund Management and the Chinese government’s China Merchants.

‘‘One of the final points of difference with our new ownership is that our new owners are interested in using their finance to assist developers and traders by providing their capital and entering into partnerships, certainly something under government ownership that was not possible,’’ Mr Francis said.

He said Newcastle had about 4500 ship movements in 2014, and modelling showed the existing channels could handle 10,000 movements a year, implying there was a potential doubling of trade.

Actual ship visits during 2014, according to the company’s annual trade report, totalled 2169, made up of 1717 coal ships, 444 non-coal commercial vessels and eight cruise ships.

Mr Francis said Port of Newcastle was working on two projects at the Walsh Point end of Kooragang Island: a Park Fuels storage depot and distribution facility, which was ‘‘in the commissioning phase’’, and a Tasmanian Mines magnetite import and storage facility in the ‘‘pre-construction phrase’’.

 Mr Francis acknowledged that coal was the lifeblood of the port but Port of Newcastle as an operator wanted to diversify the business as much as possible.

The general manager of Stolthaven Terminals, Michael Frost, said the company’s fuel terminal at Mayfield had been operating since 2013 and was still growing.

Situated at the western end of the former BHP steelworks site, Stolthaven wanted to expand the terminal to import car fuel and possibly jet fuel as well as diesel.

‘‘Botany is our competitor,’’ Mr Frost said.

Newcastle Agri Terminal executive director Jock Carter said his company’s metal silos had become a distinctive part of the harbour skyline, but many people were still unaware what they were used for.

He said the recently commissioned terminal was having ‘‘a reasonably quiet year’’ this year.