What’s going on in RORO-LAND?

If, like me, you are an occasional ship-spotter, you will be familiar with Fremantle Ports Public Page where, among other things, you can check out what ships are arriving and departing Fremantle’s two ports – the inner harbour and the outer harbour.

Yesterday morning, when glancing through what ships were expected to arrive during the day, I noticed the RO-RO Wisdom Ace was listed. Then I noticed that her arrival had been ‘Cancelled’.

Here’s the Dugong Ace, a sibling RO-RO to the Wisdom Ace, recently departing Fremantle

As I hadn’t encountered a cancellation of an arrival before – no doubt due to my lack of attention – I contacted Fremantle Ports to find out if there was a particular reason for this cancellation.

The head flak at Freo Ports, Neil Stanbury kindly got back to me to advise that Wisdom Ace was having to bypass Fremantle and proceed to Adelaide, because fendering works are happening this week on H Berth on Victoria Quay, the inner harbour’s busiest berth.

The project involves replacing the existing old piled fendering on the 275m-long berth with new technology fendering designed for RO-ROs, at a cost of around $5.3m. This has been essential to ensure H Berth remains an effective operating berth for these giants of the seas.

One of the three windows for works has already occurred, there is another now until until Saturday, then the third and final window is from 29 May until 3 June, with the project due for completion in mid June. In short, there have been three ‘pushes’ to get the work done.

Here’s a generic picture of the type of cone fendering Freo Ports are installing.

We understand H Berth will be very busy this week, with cranes and other work equipment, as the old fendering is removed and new fendering installed.

Shipping firms, of course, been been advised in advance of the outages for H Berth and have made other arrangements. However, we notice today’s ports notifications feature more cancellations of RO-RO arrivals.

Fortunately, Berth 12 can still handle RO-ROs, which mean some can berth here.

We have no idea what happens to the vehicles that were intended to be unloaded in Freo when a big RO-RO’s arrival here is cancelled and she sails on to an interstate port.

Presumably, in the case of the Wisdom Ace, once her cargo is landed in Adelaide in a few days time, it’ll then be trucked or trained back to WA.

No doubt there are a few folk who have just been advised that their new car or truck delivery will be a few weeks later than previously advised.

We also wondered why Freo Ports would be undertaking all this work at great expense when by all accounts the RO-ROs berths will be leaving the inner harbour before too long. Neil Stanbury kindly further advised us that upgrades to various assets are ongoing and, while not insignificant, $5.3m isn’t a very large investment in the scheme of things. These works would have had to occur anyway on Victoria Quay.

As to our further inquiry about rumours that seem to be rife that an official announcement is imminent concerning the relocation of RO-RO berths from the inner harbour to some other port, Neil told us –

Fremantle Ports continues to work closely with Government on the bigger picture for the facilitation of maritime trade and things will become clearer in the next 12 to 18 months regarding how various port trades are handled, where and the timing of any relocation. That planning work clearly involves discussions with Westport, a range of government entities and others across the transport sector.

Neil added – ‘In the meantime it’s business as usual!

So, there you are folks. Thanks to the Wisdom Ace, we are all that much wiser!

* By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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