Business Booming on Pilbara-Singapore Sea Routes

Trade on the new shipping routes established just over a year ago between the Pilbara and Singapore has boomed and now includes shipments from companies outside the region.

Project manager for global logistics company Pentagon Freight Services, Kylie Woodfin, said the ports of Dampier and Port Hedland were now seen as alternatives to the port of Fremantle.

“The ship that’s in Dampier harbor right now, I’ve filled up a drill rod that we’re actually going to truck here [to Perth] because it’s going to cost us less money and less time to bring it up north and then bring it to Perth,” she said.

The first shipments along the new route from Singapore – a major global shipping hub – arrived in Port Hedland in November 2020 and Dampier in February 2021.

Australian Floating Decks expects trade along the direct shipping routes between Singapore and the Pilbara to continue to pick up.(Provided: Australian Pontoon Bridges/Paul Toussaint-Jackson )

These routes connect the Pilbara to the world, via Singapore, as stated by Captain Paul Toussaint-Jackson, founder of the direct freight company Australian Floating Decks which carried out the Pilbara Freight Study 2018.

Through the port of Dampier and Port Hedland, the company’s trade has reached the equivalent of 20,000 twenty-foot shipping containers per year and continues to grow.

Pilbara Ports Authority chief executive Roger Johnston said new direct shipping lines have helped trade grow and over the past year Port Hedland port has seen a tenfold increase in shipping volumes. containers.

“The Pilbara Ports Authority has already identified the need to expand its first point of entry facilities [at Dampier and Port Hedland] three times to accommodate incoming goods. »

A large ship carrying shipping containers docks.
The Tacoma Trader arrived at the Port of Dampier from Singapore, a major shipping hub, in September 2021.(Provided: Ports Pilbara)

Businesses and industry using drop shipping services said the new routes were notable time-savers.

“On transit time from Singapore alone, that saves about six days,” Ms Woodfin said.

“On top of that, the berthing delays for the ship to even be moored here in Freo Harbor, you’re looking at weeks on ships laden with steel.”

Previously, freight en route to the region landed in Fremantle and was trucked 1,000 odd kilometers or more to the northwest of the state.

Pilbara Stone – which mines marble mainly south of the Ashburton River – said the ability to ship from Dampier has significantly reduced transport distances and costs.

“We made some early shipments through Perth, which required us to arrange truck loading and then shipment from Perth to processing plants in China,” said manager Mike Elliot.

A forklift lifts large stone blocks onto a truck.
Pilbara businesses and industry claim that direct shipping routes from Pilbara have reduced transport costs. (Provided: Pilbara Stone/Mike Elliot)

With much of the state’s resource industry located in the north, large items such as drilling rigs would also have to be trucked in from the Port of Fremantle.

Ms. Woodfin said Pentagon customers, who are primarily in the oil, gas and renewable energy sectors, have also found that direct shipping routes have resulted in lower costs.

“It has certainly brought costs down in an economic climate where everything else is going up. It has made availability and space on ships much easier.

Pipes laid on the ground in a port
Ships often carry cargo in containers as well as bulk items such as pipes. (Supplied: Pentagon)

Part of the challenge of shipping to a busy port with a backlog was the possibility of being hit with heavy loads, Ms Woodfin said, such as vessel detention charges.

“For the smaller cargo, which is non-containerized cargo, when you remove a lot of their ship, you become responsible for delays on the ships.

“Usually when it wasn’t as bad as it is now, it would usually take four days for the ship to come and unload and then be gone.

Container loading in Singapore Australian Floating Decks
Containers being loaded in Singapore before being transported to the Pilbara, (Provided: Australian Pontoon Bridges/Paul Toussaint-Jackson)

Captain Toussaint-Jackson said he expected up to 10% of general merchandise trade through the port of Fremantle to shift to direct Pilbara trade.

The new roads, he said, have also reduced prohibitive costs and enabled local businesses to export to overseas markets.