NEWS - NSW celebrates 40 years of container trade

NEWS - NSW celebrates 40 years of container trade

NSW Ports and Waterways Minister, Joe Tripodi said April 3, 2009, marked the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the first dedicated container ship in Sydney — an event that heralded a new era in shipping which revolutionised world trade.

“International container trade in Australia as we know it today began with the arrival of the UK-based Encounter Bay at Balmain Wharf on April 3, 1969,” said Tripodi.

“This was the beginning of the world’s first long-haul containerised freight service — the Europe to Australia run — and it ushered in a new era that’s been fundamental to the development of the Australian economy,” he said.

During the second half of 1965, the Minister said four British shipowners, P&OSN Co, Ocean Transport and Trading, Furness Withy, and British and Commonwealth, agreed to form a consortium to be known as Overseas Containers Ltd (OCL).

“The consortium undertook a detailed feasibility study on the introduction of a container service between Europe and Australia with purpose-built cellular container ships, and the rest is history,” Tripodi said.

“Containerisation transformed seaborne trade by sharply reducing ship turnaround times in port, introducing larger and faster vessels and ultimately cutting costs.

“Container trade also improved the security of cargo on the docks and in transit but it was their greater capacity that changed world trade forever.

“One container ship replaced about eight conventional ships when taking into account increased capacity and quicker round voyage times,” Tripodi explained.

The 40th anniversary was marked by a reunion of former Overseas Containers Limited employees. Tripodi said the gathering at a city hotel was an occasion to reminisce but also a celebration of the growth and changes in containerised trade over the last 40 years.

The Encounter Bay was the first cellular container ship to carry more than 1000 containers (1138), compared to as many as 4500 for the average container ship which visits Botany Bay today.

“Back in 1970, the first full year of overseas containerships operating in the Port of Sydney, some 118,000 containers were handled.

“Compare that to last financial year when there was a throughput of 1.8 million containers,” Tripodi said.

The Minister said with Port Botany the primary gateway for overseas containerised trade, the NSW Government is investing in the port’s expansion to cater for future container growth.

“The $1 billion expansion and construction of a third terminal will nearly double the port’s capacity to around three million containers when the project is completed in 2012.

“The ships expected to berth at the new terminal will have capacity of around 8000 containers, significantly larger than the Encounter Bay which first landed at the docks at Balmain,” Tripodi said.

PHOTOS: Encounter Bay in Sydney (B/W); Modern container ship fully loaded (colour).