After shipping tens of thousands of tonnes of sand internationally just this year, Okara is set to expand and further increase the Port of Bundaberg's export capacity.
The project, which will unleash a range of new export and trade opportunities for the region, has secured a 100% reduction in applicable infrastructure charges from Bundaberg Regional Council in recognition of its status as a project of regional significance.
The reduction was awarded on the grounds that the development would provide significant economic benefit to the region.
Okara Ply Ltd, situated at 67 Buss Street, Burnett Heads, is a family-owned company and is currently the largest employer at the Port of Bundaberg.
Okara provides cartage and storage services for bulk commodities for import and export and supply ship loading and unloading services.
In a report presented to Council Okara said its plans for growth that the Council support would enable included the cartage, storage and ship loading of 90,000 tonnes of silica sand a year.
Since requesting relief from infrastructure charges Okara has partnered with Move Logistics, one of the largest end-to-end logistics providers in New Zealand, to launch a new shipping service from Bundaberg to New Zealand and domestic port calls on the East Coast of Australia.
This collaboration aims to promote sustainable and resilient shipping practices while supporting regional ports.
Move Oceans operate three vessels intra New Zealand and across the Tasman.
Atlas Wind is Move's 4500 dwt vessel equipped with ship's gear and is expected to provide efficient and reliable services for these new routes. Atlas Wind has the capacity to carry an additional 100 shipping containers ex Bundaberg and will offer a monthly port call.
Okara has constructed a 75 m x 55 m concrete bunker for storage of up to 40,000 tonnes of dry bulk goods to facilitate the export of silica sand.
The storage bunker facility requires an igloo roof which will result in a fully sealed, weatherproof and environmentally friendly storage solution at the Port of Bundaberg and will come at a cost of $2 million dollars.
The hard stand sealed storage area will be expanded for shipping containers, site huts, machinery and portable buildings and the design and construction of a bulk storage igloo for Gladstone Ports Corporation on the Port of Bundaberg will connect to the new common user conveyor to facilitate ship loading.
In the absence of these facilities Okara is able to leverage off existing port assets owned by Sugar Terminals Limited and Gladstone Ports Corporation to facilitate bulk exports with mobile conveyors and container loading using the ship's cranes.
The report prepared by Okara and presented to Council stated that not only would this expansion facilitate greater utilisation of the region's port it would also be a boost for local business and jobs.
“Our company have [sic] been approached on numerous occasions over the last five years by local business who are trying to further trim supply chain costs and import/export bulk products through the Port of Bundaberg,” Okara said in the report.
“Currently product is being moved through Gladstone or Brisbane Ports resulting in higher charges to get the product to market.
“In 2018 Council commissioned economic modelling showing that if new infrastructure and investment could be attracted to the Port that up to 24,000 additional jobs could be created across the region over 20 years.
“Along with the Pacific Tug project, the Okara Bulk Storage Expansion Project will directly help unlock this potential envisaged for the region by Council,” the Okara report continued.
“This project supports Gladstone Ports Corporation's 50 year strategic plan for the Port of Bundaberg by providing a solution to an underutilised asset that will allow diversification of commodities and ensure the Port becomes viable.”
Okara hopes its expansion will secure the opportunity to export 90,000 tonnes of sand internationally each year and its new partnership with Move Oceans will ensure break bulk container trade opportunities for local growers and manufacturers.
The bulk storage expansion project will create 15 new full-time positions for truck driving and plant and machinery operators.
A further five to 10 causal positions for ship loading and unloading could also be created if new export opportunities are realised.