Flinders Ports

Ambitious for growth

Flinders Ports operates seven of South Australia’s ten ports, and with the recent boom in mining activity, has ambitious plans to treble its capacity in the next few years, as CEO Vincent Tremaine explains to Jane Bordenave.





Flinders Ports is the largest private port operator in South Australia, controlling seven of the state’s ten privately operated ports. It was founded as a consortium in 2001 and won the right to run the ports of Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Thevenard, Wallaroo, Port Giles and Klein Point for 99 years in November 2001. The ports handle a wide range of cargo, making the company one of the most diverse in the country. Running the company is CEO Vincent Tremaine, who joined in January 2002.

Across all its ports, the business handles approximately 18 million tonnes of bulk cargo per year and in excess of 600,000 tonnes of break bulk. The products are diverse, ranging from grain to metal ores to fully manufactured cars and it is this diversity that has defined Flinders Ports as an organisation. “Although we’re a state-based operation, we compete at a national level,” explains Tremaine. “While in theory we have local competition in the form of the three other local cargo ports, in practice our main rival is actually Darwin, in the North for bulk and Melbourne for containers.”

The reasons for this are simple: the three remaining ports are either small in comparison to those run by Flinders and particularly in comparison to Adelaide, or they are run mainly or exclusively to move the cargo of the organisation that owns them. “One of the ports is owned and run by the oil and gas company Santos Ltd and it deals exclusively with transportation of their liquid bulk cargo. Another is owned by One Steel and deals solely with its iron ore exports. So you can see that we are the only business in South Australia offering full spectrum capabilities to virtually all industries wishing to transport their goods by sea.”

In order to compete at this level, Flinders Ports has had to be proactive in every aspect of business. “One of the key differentiators between us and our competition is our knowledge of the transport chain from mine or farm right to the wharf, or vice versa,” says Tremaine. “We are taking more and more interest in this and have recently added a logistics division to our organisation. This allows us to go out and talk directly to the miners and the farmers or anyone who may wish to use our facilities and discuss with them how best to move their cargo.” This expertise allows the company to approach potential clients and offer them advice and assistance that many others in this field cannot.

This is particularly useful not just when talking to organisations based in South Australia, but also those in the middle of the country. “Australia is a big country and South Australia is a big state. We have a fairly low population, but there are a lot of cargo-producing businesses throughout, particularly arable farming and mining. Because of its size, those in the north of the state, i.e. the centre of the country, really have the choice of where they want to take their business, as the distance to any of the major ports, including Adelaide, is to all intents and purposes the same. This also applies to potential customers who may fall outside of state boundaries, but are in the same situation in terms of distance from our ports and those of our competitors.” Therefore an intimate knowledge of and ability to advise on goods transportation by both road and rail is a vital tool in the pursuit of new business.

When it comes to business opportunities, for cargo ports, South Australia really is the place to be. “We are on the brink of a major mining boom,” says Tremaine. “There are approximately 10 billion tonnes of iron ore deposits here that we know of and there could be anywhere up to ten times that amount in total lying under the South Australian soil. So we are currently in talks with 10 different mines in different stages of development and trying to work out how we can help them to get their cargo out of the state and to their customers.”

This presents Flinders Ports with a huge opportunity for growth, but it also brings its own challenges – namely having the capacity to be able to facilitate this export. “We are already exporting a small amount of iron ore for one customer but if we want this side of our business to expand, we have to increase our capabilities.” The main project currently under way is the development of an iron ore export facility at Port Bonython. “There are geotechnical, environmental and demand studies either underway or about to commence, but our plan is to construct a 3km long jetty going out to 20m depth of water. It will have a 25 million tonne capacity, with a conveyer that will be able to carry 4,000 tonnes of cargo per hour, as well as storage.” The project represents an AU$700 million investment and Tremaine hopes that it will be up and running by the end of 2015.

The future of Flinders Ports can be summed up in one word: growth. “There are a lot of mineral deposits in South Australia in addition to iron ore and in the last two years we have started handling the export of mineral sands through our ports, as well as zinc. We are also about to begin handling copper too. Virtually all of this mining activity has begun in the last two years and I have no doubt that growth in that sector will continue.” As a result of this, Flinders Ports is hoping to double its size. “We have AU$12 million infrastructure investment plan in place for Adelaide and we are going to purchase our own crane to enable us to better handle copper concentrate export. So in 2015, by the time Port Bonython comes online, we will have trebled our total capacity from 16 million tonnes to 50 million, and increased our revenue by 100 per cent.”

With the knowledge, expertise and confidence shown by Flinders Ports, it’s easy to forget the company is only 10 years old. However by using these assets and offering customers real value added, you can be sure that it will be serving the South Australian import and export markets for many decades to come. www.flindersports.com.au