Australian ports provide vital import and export services that we depend on and a remarkable number of jobs are provided in and around ports too. We often underestimate just what good well functioning ports mean to our quality of life however, as with all other human activities, we cannot ignore the environmental price.
As service providers ports need to cater to the needs of ships as well as the communities around them. This isn't always an easy task often from the middle of busy cities and congestion. Efficient operation as well as environmental concerns are always at the forefront of good community relations so reducing environmental impacts is high on the list.
We know that ships provide the least environmental impact of any transport for delivering large quantities of goods from one part of the world to another. Four times more efficient than rail and 20 times more efficient than road. Understandable when we consider how much easier it is for ships to basically glide across the water in a relatively frictionless way.
However when goods need to be unloaded or indeed loaded from ports, what kind of infrastructure will provide the best services in moving the goods to and from ports? Rail is the winner and it needs to feed the ports efficiently from inland agricultural centres, cities and mining areas. We can't do without trucks either so effective efficient roads to and from the ports will help too. Excellent planning and maintenance will help to reduce the collateral pollution.
There is currently a 'big push' for government to allocate funding to this issue however it will be an expensive investment, competing with the prioritisation of passenger services. It has been suggested that separate freight lines direct to the ports may be the best outcome.
See an interesting pdf from the Australian Rail Track Association (ATRC) here