VIDEO: Port goal to move more than coal

MENTION the commercial activity that goes on in the Port of Newcastle and most people, not surprisingly, will think of coal.

It’s true coal  dominates the port’s trade, accounting for nearly 95per cent of cargo by volume.

In the year to June 30, about 122million tonnes of coal left the port.

That’s more than 90 times the size of the second greatest cargo, the 1.35million tonnes of alumina imported to make aluminium.

But the Newcastle Port Corporation – a state-owned enterprise that oversees much of the activity within the port – is constantly on the lookout for non-coal trade to broaden the port’s commercial footing.

More than 40 commodities were shipped in or out of the port this year, and the redevelopment of the former BHP steelworks site has given Newcastle a golden opportunity to move to a new level of commercial activity.

Guiding that growth is the port corporation’s general manager operations, Ron Sorensen, a maritime veteran who joined the organisation in 2007 after 20years on the Newcastle tugs.

Having spent years at sea on BHP ships as a marine engineer, Mr Sorensen said Newcastle is widely known as one of the world’s great ports.

‘‘It’s my job to make sure we have good and safe operations in the port and Newcastle is recognised as one of the safest ports that there are,’’ Mr Sorensen said.

When the Newcastle Herald caught up with him recently, the quietly-spoken 57-year-old was looking over a grain ship, the Stove Campbell, which had come to port to unload soy meal.

A Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier with its own deck cranes, the 186-metre long vessel has been in service since 1999.

Like most vessels visiting the port, the Stove Campbell and its mixed-nation crew are only ever against the wharf for a few days  at  most.

‘‘As long as it takes and then away on the next tide,’’ was how one crew member described it. 

‘‘But we will be back.’’ 

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