T-Ports looks to diversify throughput at Lucky Bay, Wallaroo

Liz Wells June 19, 2024

The Lucky Eyre lighter on the berth at Lucky Bay. Photo: T-Ports

DEMAND for port capacity in regional South Australia is being gauged by T-Ports as it seeks to increase throughput at its two South Australian port facilities.

The independently owned bulk handler opened for business during the 2019 harvest, and has exported up to 1 million tonnes of grain per annum via its Lucky Eyre transshipment vessel to ships at anchor in Spencer Gulf.

Now that its initial Lucky Bay port on Eyre Peninsula, and its Wallaroo facility on Yorke Peninsula which opened in 2022, have settled into a rhythm around receiving and out-turning grain, T-Ports chief executive officer Nathan Kent said the company is ready for the next step.

The South Australian Government’s planned State Prosperity Project (SPP), with renewable energy at its heart, could well provide the answer.

Open to suggestions

The SPP aims to build on existing developments in the Upper Spencer Gulf, which takes in both Lucky Bay and Wallaroo, and stretches south on EP to Cape Hardy.

ASX-listed company Iron Road has plans to build a deepwater port at Cape Hardy, 7km north of Port Neill, as part of a precinct which includes Amp Australia’s renewable energy hub.

“Until Cape Hardy is operating, there’s extremely tight capacity when it comes to unlocking the needs of the region by sea,” Mr Kent said.

“The reason we’ve put out this information memorandum is we’re trying to flesh out who needs a pathway for port capacity.

“We believe our Lucky Bay port is very well placed to assist with SPP construction phase and export production projects.

“That could be minerals related, or it could be turbine blades for wind farms coming in, which are all being transported through Port Adelaide now.

“At Lucky Bay, one side of our site is completely empty, and it could be the ideal place for prefab, or for mineral exports.”

“It’s about giving the market a chance to know about us, and think about us differently.”

Grain capacity building

Mr Kent said there are no plans to change T-Ports’ core business as a service provider for growers delivering grain and exporting it, and the company is continuing to build in that space.

“We are investing in new stackers, and deepening our port channel at Lucky Bay, and we will be taking in lentils on EP for the first time this harvest.”

This follows T-Ports’ first lentil cargo, 30,000t loaded out of Wallaroo in December 2023.

T-Ports CEO Nathan Kent.

Mr Kent said Wallaroo has capacity to house some grain-related infrastructure such as a bulk shedding facility, while Lucky Bay offers both port and landside-development opportunities.

Lucky Bay is around 500km from Adelaide by road.

“For Lucky Bay to be developed as a place where materials and equipment could arrive in South Australia can remove a pretty long road leg, which is what you’re looking at for cargo coming in through Adelaide to be used in the Upper Spencer Gulf.”

T-Ports is already in discussions around how it can partner with ship owners and other ports to use barges to transfer renewables cargoes from break-bulk vessels to shore.

“Removal of this type of cargo from road is commonplace in the US and in Europe and provides opportunity to replicate for South Australia.”

“When you look at renewable supply base hubs in places like Scotland, they are pivoting away from fossil fuels to support these new forms of green energy, and we feel there could be opportunities for T-Ports to provide that in South Australia.”

As outlined in the Information Memorandum available through JLL and calling for expressions of interest by August 2, roll-on roll-off is another option available at Lucky Bay, as is the development of a pit-to-ship haul road.

Lucky Bay leads way

Farmer co-operative FREE Eyre initially showed interest in developing Lucky Bay for grain exports.

Through its Peninsula Ports entity, FREE Eyre now has plans to develop a deepwater terminal at Port Spencer, 70km north-east of Port Lincoln, with grain as the cornerstone commodity.

As well as being the load point for the Lucky Eyre grain transshipment vessel, the Lucky Bay berth is also the EP terminus for a daily passenger and vehicular ferry service which connects the region with Wallaroo.

While planning of the Port Spencer and Cape Hardy terminals is well advanced, construction of the separate projects is yet to start.


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