10 Feb 2022

Moving a globally relevant port is no easy feat, particularly when its one doused in history and constrained by its surrounding areas. Fremantle Port not only connects people and places though migration and trade, but it also links today with the challenges and achievements of yesteryear.

A monumental opportunity

In an estimated $4 billion1 move, Westport seeks to establish a brand-new container port in Kwinana, approximately 24km south of Fremantle. This represents a seismic shift in the freight and supply chain network of the Perth Metropolitan region and continues Perth’s south-west corridor’s strategic economic development.

The proposed new port provides Perth a golden opportunity to maximise the Western Australian capital’s strategic placement on a global scale. The sheer scale of this project demands innovative ideas focussed on future investment potential and sustainability.

Urbis’ Perth Emerging Leaders Group, the WA development industry’s next generation of leaders, have big ideas to shape and maximise the new port’s potential. These ideas will be debated at the Urbis-hosted ‘Future Perth’ event, Thursday 17 February 2022. Can’t make the event or keen to know more now? Read on. 

Modernising freight on rail

Leveraging the current government appetite for prioritising freight on rail, the proposed new port brings significant opportunity for emerging rail technology.

The Freight and Logistics Council anticipates the state’s freight on rail will increase by 50 million net tonnes per annum by 20302. Figures are estimated based on a current locomotive fleet that is largely diesel powered. This opens the door to significant innovation in the way we fuel and operate locomotives into the future.

Battery powered and hydrogen locomotives are steadily being introduced to the market, with large locomotive manufacturers in Wabtec and Ballard being suppliers of note. Although the uptake has been slow, the second half of 2021 has seen rail innovation turn the corner with Canadian Pacific and Canadian National announcing Hydrogen and Battery Powered locomotives, respectively. Closer to home, Roy Hill confirmed the purchase of WA’s first electric locomotive in September last year.

New rail technology is here, however it requires government investment to stimulate industry, leading operators, and the resource sector to facilitate a faster uptake. Northern America has seen the introduction of sustainable transport strategy grants to stimulate the initial purchase, laying precedent for a similar government supported approach in Western Australia. 

Future-proofing trucks

Electric vehicles (EVs) are more than just a buzzword; Australia is getting left behind with the lag in uptake of EVs and EV infrastructure. At least on a national policy level. 

We are now seeing the states (particularly NSW) outpacing the Federal Government, embracing EV policy and infrastructure to bring Australia up to speed with the rest of the world. WA has started with EV initiatives, but we could be doing much more. The new port could spur WA toward embracing EV technology and vehicle uptake. 

‘Swap and go’ (or interchangeable) truck batteries have proved to be timely, affordable and practical. Janus Electric, an Australian company, are leading the charge in the interchangeable battery technology space3. Janus have developed ‘swap and go’ battery technology that allows for complete battery swaps for trucks in as little as three minutes. With ranges of 400-600km available for trucks, the technology is already here and constantly getting better. Moreover, trials in Australia are demonstrating that up to 90% of existing trucks on our roads can be converted to electric.

Could the new port be a catalyst for Western Australia to make strides with EV technology?

Shaping greener shipping

Global port development has seen progressive initiatives to support modern and greener shipping activities. The Port of Long Beach in California has introduced their ‘Green Ship Incentive’ Program as a part of their commitment to Green Port Policy4. The Green Ship Incentive is a scheme that provides rebates on ‘ship call fees’ for ships that use sustainable fuels or other green initiatives. This allows for ‘Green’ ships that are traditionally more expensive to operate at a more comparable and affordable level. A similar and equally successful program has been rolled out in Rotterdam.  

Modern ports also need to ensure they can support the refuelling of ships that utilise alternative fuels. Maersk and other major shipping lines have outlined their desire to rollout fleets that use biofuels and green hydrogen. However, they have identified the key barrier to this implementation is a lack of supporting infrastructure at ports around the world.

Green shipping has to provide a competitive advantage to shipping lines in order to make their uptake viable. As such, it’s evident that ports hold a great responsibility in ensuring better shipping practices can be achieved. Its imperative that for Westport to be a global leader it must immediately acknowledge its role in shaping shipping for the better. 

Building smarter

Historically, ports have had an adverse effect on the environment, through land, air, water or noise pollution. However, thanks to advances in skills and technology, ports can be far more sustainable.

Think floating solar panels, wind turbines, LED lighting, electronic emission sensors (which track noise and odour emissions) and heat pipelines (capable or transferring residual heat generated from port activities). All of these exist and are being used by self-sufficient ports across the globe.

The new port presents a clean slate for sustainable, future-orientated design and construction. It’s an opportunity to support global efforts in mitigating climate change, and a chance for Perth to take a leading role in Australia’s path towards sustainability and resilience. 

Green over grey

When we think of ports, we see hectares of grey hardscape, concrete, cranes, and shipping containers that make a port ‘functional’. However, the fundamentals of port design were formed hundreds of years ago with outdated technology. It’s time the approach to hardscape is revisited, the impacts on river and ocean ecosystems as well as surrounding natural landscapes a key consideration.

Cockburn Sound and the surrounding land is rich with biodiversity, nature, and places of cultural significance that pre-date Perth’s first container ships by tens of thousands of years. The expansion of development within this area must incorporate and celebrate these important landscapes, places and stories through considered design.

Greening what is a traditionally grey site can facilitate a much-needed balance between the ‘functionality’ of a port, the natural and historical environment it sits within, and the global need for mitigating impacts of climate change.

The social life of a port

City-port relationships are a long-standing symbiosis of activity, character, and culture. The decentralization of Perth’s port activity from urban activity prompts the question of how this port will interact with its new surroundings and connect to the greater city.

The Port of Rotterdam is a global leader in port sustainability, whilst also placing a focus on creating economic and social values for the port and surrounding community5. Through the implementation of clever initiatives, the port is visited by over 130,000 people yearly to discover more about the port, enjoy boat tours/exhibitions and engage in port-related training programs. Ultimately, Rotterdam has diversified the way the port functions to allow for education, tourism and establishing a social license to operate.

Creating a global attraction, enabling activity and offering learning experiences which extend beyond the typical ‘employment-based function’ of a port will enable Perth’s new port to meaningfully integrate with the surrounding community and the broader city.

The establishment of a new container port brings many advantages and strengths in which Kwinana, Perth and WA can capitalise on. These opportunities require thoughtful and considered ideation and implementation. We’re deeply motivated to support the long-term economic, social and environmental success of this monumental project- its one that has the potential to have great impact well beyond its immediate project scope.  

These ideas and more will be unpacked at the Urbis-hosted ‘Future Perth’ event, Thursday 17 February 2022. Contact our team to find out more about next week’s event, discuss any of the points raised above or to talk anything city shaping.