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TasPorts – Forest Product Exports

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Tags: TasPorts, Native Forest Logging, Exports

Ms O'CONNOR - In the section of the annual report on page 7 covering freight and logistics, it talks about a downturn in forest products being exported out of all ports. Total freight is down 14.1 million tonnes during this past financial year and there's a statement in the annual report which is really interesting. It says:

This decline reflects a downturn in international demand for forestry and other commodities along with the impact of COVID-19.

Is there some observation the board or CEO want to make about the downturn in international demand for forestry and when TasPorts started to see evidence of that in its accounting?

Mr DONALD - Yes, certainly. It would have been perhaps late last calendar year that we started to see some influences of global tensions arising pre-COVID-19. It was probably towards early in the last calendar quarter of 2019 that we saw some global tensions arise and some fluctuations of freight volumes and forecasts. I'm happy to share with the committee that over the last six to 9 months in particular there's been a lot of inconsistencies in freight movements. Our team has become incredibly close to our customers to understand what their forecasts look like, but none of us have a crystal ball. There's been some positive fluctuations that we would have never anticipated and one example of that is we had an increase in domestic container movements in March, April and May; significantly over budget. All I could presume is that equates to Tasmanians spending more time in supermarkets and department stores and perhaps online shopping.

Mr BRADFORD - It is not only global tensions that affect trade supply -

Ms O'CONNOR - It is what I'm trying to get to the bottom of but I think it's more than global tensions - it's shifting markets as well.

Mr BRADFORD - It's shifting markets, it's the decision of the buyer to perhaps source from another point of supply or turn to Tasmania. It goes both ways. It's the stock levels of the customers in those foreign countries with their own demand through the process being affected. It's a complex environment. Anthony and the team attempt to keep a close eye on but can't influence a lot, is what are all the tensions and opportunities. Ports grow, they come back a bit - so, it's difficult to spot. The ports in Tasmania are heavily dependent on crews, forest products, and minerals plus the broad consumption of Tasmanians. You live with the good and the bad.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks, Mr Bradford. The total volume of whole logs on Macquarie Wharf - I have never seen anything quite like it - the huge piles of whole logs there. Is it fair to say there is a backlog on Macquarie Wharf? Is there some understanding of the indicative tonnage of what we're looking at there, or cubic meterage?

Mr DONALD - Certainly, when the terminal is full, there is around 18 000 tonnes of forestry log products. That equates to one ship, so our terminal doesn't enjoy a large footprint within Macquarie Wharf. It's quite small in nature and that's why it's been designed to optimise throughput and we're driven to reduce storage time.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just to finish that line of questioning -

DEPUTY CHAIR - Last question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks, Chair. Would it be fair to say, Mr Donald, that at the moment there is more volume of whole logs sitting on Macquarie Wharf? Would you mind telling the committee what TasPorts considers is the reason for that?

Mr DONALD - I don't think we have any logs sitting on the wharf today; however, in the last 12 months we have enjoyed more throughput through the Southern Export Terminal than we have seen previously. It's only recently that we are running that business as a profitable business.

Mr BRADFORD - It is through the eyes. I look at the log stockpile and, having worked in New Zealand ports, I marvel at how small it is.

Ms O'CONNOR - I get a twitch under my right eye that I can't stop, when I see that volume there.

Mr BRADFORD - It is a small but effective terminal.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Bradford.


Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, the annual report doesn't detail the number of TEUs that come out of the southern export facility. Is there information available about how many containers in a year?

Mr DONALD - At this point, we are not exporting containers out of the southern export terminal. It is bulk log movements only.

Ms O'CONNOR - At the moment, all of them are going straight onto the ship?

Mr DONALD - In the bulk movements with the grab crane. Measured in JAS, which is the unit.

Ms O'CONNOR - Japanese Agriculture Standard. Never heard of it until recently. Which forest producers does TasPorts primarily have working arrangements with for Macquarie Point?

Mr DONALD - For the southern export terminal? We don't go into that level of detail. We have arrangements with our customers. What arrangements they have with their customers is a matter for them. We provide wharf-related infrastructure and loading services for our customers' commodity.

Ms O'CONNOR - My recollection of previous GB Estimates hearings is that when we have asked for some information on companies that TasPorts has contractual arrangement with, we have been provided with that information. I don't know if I have misremembered something. Is there a company policy now that -

Mr DONALD - Regarding company names? That would be fine. More than happy to provide that. I don't believe that was your question. I may have misunderstood.

Ms O'CONNOR - I think we have been at cross-purposes, but that is fine. So, which companies does TasPorts ship logs for? Does TasPorts provide the port facility to ship logs out of the south?

Mr DONALD - I do not have that currently with me but we can provide that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Put that on notice.

Mr DONALD - Yes.