Aerial image of the Port of Mackay. Picture: supplied
Aerial image of the Port of Mackay. Picture: supplied

FIGURES: True impact of COVID, trade tension on Mackay ports

NEW figures released by North Queensland Bulk Ports have revealed the shocking repercussions COVID-19 and trade tensions with China are having on Mackay ports.

Abbot Point, Mackay, Hay Point and Weipa trading ports, as well as the non-trading port of Maryborough, all come under the care and authority of NQBP.

An NQBP spokeswoman said while the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic had affected global demand, regional trade tensions were having a significant impact up and down the supply chain.

"The impacts are being seen in the trade throughput figures at our ports," the spokeswoman said.

"Our business performance has seen trade declining by 6 per cent from 177mt to 166mt in the past financial year.

"This was equivalent to the trade six years ago in FY14.

"These numbers were at June 2020. Since then, the economic consequences of COVID-19 continue to reverberate and we have seen ongoing escalation of regional trade tensions."

Aerial image of the Port of Mackay. Picture: supplied
Aerial image of the Port of Mackay. Picture: supplied

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She said the authority's first quarter trading volume was the lowest of the past seven years.

In the quarter from July to September 2020, NQBP exported 31.3Mt of coal compared with 36.9Mt for the same period in 2019.

In October 2020, NQBP exported 9.7Mt of coal compared with 12.4Mt for the month of October 2019.

It comes as Queensland Budget documents revealed COVID-19 had hit state coffers like a wrecking ball, with coal royalties expected to fall 53 per cent this financial year.

Responding to the figures, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told News Corp there were Queensland ships currently stuck off China.

"We would encourage the Federal Government to resume trade relationship talks because what the mining companies are saying to me … the last thing they want to see are mines closed in Queensland that could have an impact on Queensland jobs," she said.

Ships moored off Hay Point waiting to be loaded with coal.
Ships moored off Hay Point waiting to be loaded with coal.

Dawson MP George Christensen said the Federal Government could not force China to accept Australian exports.

"There is little the Australian Government can do about getting ships of any sort docked in China, apart from trying to mediate," Mr Christensen said.

"But it seems that the mediation China wants is for Australia to change its domestic policies to suit china before they resume normal trade relationships.

"We can't do that, we can't sacrifice our national sovereignty to someone that's behaving like a bully."

Mr Christensen said Queensland needed to focus on finding new trading partners.

"We know now that China is risky; we need to hedge our bets with other countries in a bigger way than what we're doing at the moment," he said.

"Overall Queensland is very exposed to China, not just in the coal sector, it is actually more exposed in other sectors."

Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Matt Taylor
Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Matt Taylor

In the meantime, the NQBP spokeswoman said the port authority was taking action while it awaited economic recovery.

"We are working with stakeholders throughout the supply chain to look at ways to continue to grow trade and support jobs," she said.

"We are doing our part, for example we are investing $17 million at the Port of Mackay and Hay Point this financial year on a range of projects that will not only boost the ports' competitiveness, but importantly support local jobs.

"These works are a good example of how we can support the government's economic recovery plan."

More than 1000 people work at NQBP ports and a further 28,000 direct trade jobs depend on these ports.

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