25 May 2020

Our ports and our people continue to respond admirably to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic.

Since my last update, trade has continued to flow safely and efficiently through all our ports, while health and safety has remained the priority. I am pleased to share some specific developments with you in this update.

Response to COVID-19

I mentioned in my previous update about the criticality of our marine pilots to the Queensland supply chain. Their great professionalism was demonstrated once again with an innovative collaboration with Queensland Government’s Maritime Safety Queensland and Smartship Australia to set up a shipping simulator in Mackay.

With a direct feed into the Smartship simulator 1000km away in Brisbane, eight of our pilots completed key simulation training for their Advanced Marine Pilots training. More importantly, it allows them to continue their integral work; to keep trade moving during the COVID-19 restrictions. For those of you on Facebook, here is a link to a Seven News Mackay report.

You may also have seen some media reports about the quarantine exemptions that are in place for international shipping crews. As per a Direction from Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, and in line with federal rules, international shipping crews who fly into Australia and then onto Queensland to meet their vessel for crew changes are exempt from the 14-day quarantine. However, they are required to practise risk mitigation measures, such as social distancing, wearing appropriate PPE and limiting travel outside work or accommodation.

Under the Direction, international crew members also need to carry a letter from the port authority confirming the shipping details (eg vessel arrival/departure time and date; name of vessel). NQBP is on the front foot with communicating these requirements, writing to shipping agents to re-enforce the Health Direction requirements.

In terms of trade, NQBP’s throughput for the month of April (12.6M) was in line with March (12.5M). Although slightly lower trade volumes were reported at Hay Point, strong results were posted at Abbot Point. We continue to monitor trade at our ports closely for impacts from Covid-19.

We also continue to engage with our port tenants and respond to requests for rent relief in line with the principles established by the Commonwealth and State governments. Customers and tenants whose business has been impacted can contact us either via the link below, or via your normal NQBP contact.

Our operational staff continue to support port operations while maintaining rigorous health protections, while our office staff continue largely to perform important functions remotely. As restrictions begin to ease at a state and national level, we have developed a plan that will see more of our people returning to their regular place of work, with Mackay to see more staff returning from 1 June and by the end of June for Brisbane employees.

Community and stakeholders

Last week we held our Hay Point and Mackay Community Reference Groups quarterly meetings via Zoom. And, for some of our members, this was their first experience with online meetings. This week, the Abbot Point Port Advisory Group met utilising Zoom technology as well. These groups are important to us as they allow us and port and community representatives to discuss issues of mutual interest relating to port operations, development and more. So, to be able to hold these meetings (albeit in a different format) during these unnavigated times, is a real win for us. We thank all members for their time, commitment and passion for the port and their communities.

National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week starts 27 May. This year’s theme, In this together, is really about every one of us having a role to play when it comes to reconciliation. One of our core values at NQBP is Unity, and this theme resonates very strongly with us.

As an organisation, we are demonstrating our commitment to reconciliation through the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan. Our RAP will stretch us to deliver practical actions that can contribute to reconciliation both internally and in the communities in which we operate. I am looking forward to letting you know more about this important work as we strengthen our ties and relationships with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Seafarers care pack update

Recently I shared with you our $5,000 donation to the Stella Maris’ Seafarers Care Package program to fund care packages with essential items for seafarers at the Port of Mackay. The Stella Maris’ Seafarers Care Package program is in response to crew members unable to come ashore to purchase basic items due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stella Maris let us know this week they have delivered 133 care packs so far, a great effort. If your organisation is interested in supporting the program, please contact Emma Grainger on 07 4944 3708.

Ongoing and essential operations

Work continues to progress at the Port of Weipa with our annual maintenance dredging program now well under way. We are on schedule to complete the program by end of this month. This year’s project has had new control measures put in place to control risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to work closely with all our contractors, stakeholders and port users to ensure the safety of everyone, especially when working in remote communities.

At the Port of Mackay, we are pushing ahead with three infrastructure projects that will continue to modernise the port, improve safety and support local jobs. The projects involve: The enclosure of deteriorated sheet pile located within the port area; Moving almost a kilometre of overhead powerlines underground; and The demolition of a redundant reservoir at Mount Bassett to improve safety to the area.

Please go to our website and sign up to receive our NQBP press releases to keep informed about progress on the projects, otherwise stay tuned to our social media channels.

I would like to finish by thanking the hard-working team at NQBP for their commitment and support in response to this once-in-a-lifetime challenge. I also thank our port partners and stakeholders. We see their tremendous work each and every day at our ports. The success of the ports is simply not possible without you. Finally, I congratulate the communities at large in which our ports operate – it has been inspiring to see how the people of north Queensland have supported each other through their actions and adherence to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

Nicolas Fertin