At the height of the resource boom, inadequate coastal infrastructure is leading to lengthy—and costly—shipping delays

Apr 01, 2010 | 05:22 AM | Tatyana Shumsky

SYDNEY: Australia's resource sector and state governments had an unexpected opportunity to aggressively develop the country's infrastructure in the export lull that accompanied the global financial crisis.

With the absence of heavy export volumes, they could have worked to unclog the bottlenecks that caused delays and sapped profits at the height of the resource boom in 2007. But neither stepped up and little progress has been made to prevent a repeat of the congestion that stymied shipments to paying customers.

Australian iron ore and coal exports rose to record levels in the final three months of 2009, with iron ore exports surpassing 98 million tonnes and coal exports rising above 74 million tonnes on strong demand from China, South Korea and Japan, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Yet even with such high volumes of dry bulk material headed for the export market, little has been done to prevent a jam. "The government has been slow to provide infrastructure like ports and rail, but it is going to be a limiting factor on how much more exporting capacity Australia has for the world and for China," Ord Minnett analyst Peter Arden said.....

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