Luck Bay port facility

EYRE Peninsula grain growers could be up to $25 million better off after a new partnership between Free Eyre Grain and Sea Transport Group was announced last week. 

Free Eyre and the Sea Transport Group’s joint venture will be called Spencer Gulf Trust.

Free Eyre Grain chairman John Crosby urged all Eyre Peninsula farmers to consider using this new partnership as next harvest season’s export grain handling site and believed the opening of the port would take up to 9000 trucks “off the road to and in Port Lincoln”.

“There is one million tonnes of grain produced that is closer to this port than at Port Lincoln,” Mr Crosby said.

“EP growers could be up to $20 million to $25 million better off with the overflow of extra revenue spread to the local economy and community.” 

At last week’s opening of the $21.8 million Lucky Bay port redevelopment, Mr Crosby said grain growers would save $10 to $15 per tonne on cost of delivering product to Lucky Bay than to Port Lincoln. 

Mr Crosby was positive about the future direction of Free Eyre. 

“Free Eyre has done some things that didn’t work out, and we have done some great things.This is the next step in the evolution of Free Eyre,” Mr Crosby said. 

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey is assisting Spencer Gulf Trust in the search for the $80 million to $90 million required to complete the infrastructure. 

He has arranged meetings with “parties and relevant ministers” to discuss possible structures and lines of finance. 

A Free Eyre spokesperson said it was expected a proportion of the funding for the project would be secured against “through-put based equity contribution” of about $3 to $4 per tonne, which would be part of a user pay charge.

The spokesperson said Wallaroo would be a “second stage” development  with similar facilities introduced for grain and fertiliser handling. 

Subject to the completion of funding negotiations, construction on the land-based grain receival, storage and handling facilities will commence in the first quarter of 2017 and be completed to receive grain for the 2017 harvest. 

“Once the multi-purpose facility is completed it is expected to create about 50 to 60 jobs and offer an ‘significant economic benefit’ for the region, with particular impact in the communities of Cowell, Cleve, Kimba, Darke Peak and Wudinna,” Mr Ramsey said. 

The port was officially opened last Friday with ferry services anticipated to start in early December. 

The ferry service has not operated since September 2014. After delays to the port development and ferry construction, Sea SA managing director Stephanie Dawson said the Sea Star would be in Wallaroo in about four weeks, weather permitting. 

“We have already experienced some delays with typhoons holding up departure, from the shipyard in China,” Ms Dawson said.

The Sea SA ferry, the Sea Star, would operate from Wallaroo to Lucky Bay for nine months of the year, with two return trips daily, reducing to one return trip in the slower months with Ms Dawson saying pre-Christmas bookings are open. 

The opening of the port was a “historical moment” for Eyre Peninsula and South Australia, Sea Transport Group chairman Stuart Ballantyne said. 

“This is the first new port in 40 years, Australia-wide,” Mr Ballantyne said. 

“We are bringing the port to the product.”