AusRAIL, Market Sectors

ACCC asked to approve revised Hunter capacity system

<p>Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) hopes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will approve a revised capacity balancing system for the port of Newcastle within weeks in a bid to ease congestion at the port.</p> <p>The PWCS board yesterday (Wednesday, February 21) approved the recommendations made by coal producers that the coal chain revert to a CBS until December 31 &#8211 which rations rail and port capacity in an effort to even the flow of coal through the port.</p> <p>The decision comes as PWCS today prepared to begin commissioning the $170m expansion of its Kooragang Island Coal Terminal.</p> <p>The expansion should take the terminal’s capacity to 77mtpa, and the overall coal capacity to 102mtpa.</p> <p>The port exported 80.3m tonnes of coal last year but is preparing to squeeze out more than 90m tonnes in 2007.</p> <p>PWCS general manager Graham Davidson said yesterday that he hoped to have interim authorisation for the revised capacity system from the ACCC within four weeks of lodging an application.</p> <p>If approved, the CBS will be back-dated to January 1, which will mean that all shipments in 2007 will be subject to rationing.</p> <p>Larger coal producers will also have their allocations calculated monthly, rather than quarterly, in an effort to avoid an end-of-quarter rush to fulfil shipment declarations.</p> <p>Coal producers had been penalised for not meeting their quota allocations, but the revised system will give them greater leeway in their volumes.</p> <p>PWCS said coal producers would now be given up to 180,000 tonnes of flexibility, in recognition of &#8220fluctuations in demand&#8221.</p> <p>It was less than five months ago that the same coal producers elected to scrap the system that had helped slash queues and waiting times in half.</p> <p>Queues have almost tripled since the September 2006 vote to end the three-year system.</p> <p>Meanwhile, two Greenpeace activists who yesterday chained themselves to a conveyor belt at the Kooragang Coal Terminal, will face court next month charged with trespass and causing malicious damage.</p> <p>PWCS shut down the terminal for about an hour, but has not yet indicated if it will attempt to re-coup the losses. </p> <br />