9 May 2024

‘Definite’ argument for second sea freight option as PDR fight draws on: WCCC

| Lyndon Keane
Start the conversation

The only road linking Cape York and Cairns post-wet season. Not an unusual sight for locals, but one business owners and groups say must change if the region is to remain sustainable. Photo: Facebook (Coen Mechanical).

As the perpetual political debate about sealing the Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR) drags on, the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce (WCCC) says the time is right to get a second sea freight operator to service the region.

With a Weipa business forced to spend the equivalent of $20 per roll to freight toilet paper while post-wet season remediation works are completed on the PDR, WCCC president Jai Christie said skyrocketing sea freight costs were making many local projects unviable.

“The PDR really needs to be sealed for a lot of reasons, mainly our freight issues,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“From a business side, the costs of doing business during the wet season increases by up to 30 per cent when it comes to parts, inventory, building supplies and the like.

“This increases project costs and, because of this, a lot of projects don’t go ahead through the wet and are pushed out to the dry season, which increases workload on businesses and stretches capabilities.”

Mr Christie said the chamber believed it was far from hyperbole that a failure to finish the PDR seal would be catastrophic for the long-term sustainability of Cape York businesses.

READ ALSO Letter from the Editor: Potholes, toilet rolls and royalties ransom

“With the road being sealed, it will reduce the dependency on sea freight, although there will be times where we will still need sea freight due to flooding at various rivers along the road,” he said.

“If the government fails to prioritise the road, business in town will stagnate, and there’s also the potential of lost opportunities due to the difficulties of working in a remote area.”

Neither Labor nor the LNP would commit to prioritising the PDR if it won the October state election, and Mr Christie said it represented an opportunity to discuss whether a second sea freight operator was needed to break the current monopoly.

“There is definitely an argument around another sea freight company to compete with Sea Swift,” he said.

“Sea Swift is increasing costs at will, and the lack of support to local businesses is making wet season operation very difficult.

“There is talk of the Torres Strait councils looking for another sea freight carrier; we are hoping to get on board with this to make it more attractive for other companies to come to the Cape and Torres Strait.

“It is early days, but there is quite a lot of support for competition, and discussions are happening.”

The Western Cape Chamber of Commerce says the time for conversation about a second sea freight provider servicing Cape York and the Torres Strait is long overdue. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.