South Australia’s first farmer and private equity partnership port will be built at Lucky Bay in time for the 2018-19 grain harvest.
Ports consortium T-Ports announced on Wednesday funding for the $115 million port infrastructure and supply chain development project had been finalised last week, which involved securing $96 million in private investor equity and debt.
As a result, on-ground work is due to start immediately and construction is due to start in the second quarter of 2018.
T‐Ports will meet with Eyre Peninsula growers and stakeholders in April to receive feedback and explain the finer details of the project and activities to expect at Lucky Bay in the lead‐up to the first deliveries in 2018.
After an expression of interest phase last year, 120 Eyre Peninsula grain growers indicated their support for the project with 377,000 tonnes estimated to go through the facility.
These growers will acquire equity in the port for ongoing throughput over the next seven years.
Eyre Peninsula grain growers are expected to save $5 to $20 per tonne on transporting grain from farm to port, depending on their proximity to Lucky Bay.
Lock grain grower and T-Ports board member Andrew Polkinghorne said the Lucky Bay project was the breakthrough many Eyre Peninsula growers were waiting for in supply chain competition.
“While there have been a number of projects flagged for EP, Lucky Bay is a reality, it is funded and work is starting,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
“The benefits of this project will flow through to farming families and their local communities, as they secure equity in T-Ports and, as a result, a share of the profits of storing and shipping their grain.”
Jeff Bigg, who farms near Wudinna, said there were benefits to the port for growers across Eyre Peninsula.
“I am in an area of lesser advantages coming from the port, the main freight channels around Kimba and Cleve would see the most benefits,” he said.
“However, it will help with freight and storage and handling, which will save a few dollars a ton.
“I do think there will be a benefit for growers out this way and if you can save a few dollars per ton, then why not use it.”
The development approvals for the port and bunker sites were granted in 2016 and the required port operating agreement can only be granted after financial closure.
Dredging of the outer channel has also been approved.
T-Ports chairman Rob Chapman said the company’s ports infrastructure strategy centred on developing a more financially feasible ports model, including shallow water ports with a lower build cost and smaller environmental footprint requiring modest throughput, providing sound financial returns to investors.
The ports will be multi-user and multi-commodity transhipment ports, with the first at Lucky Bay and a second under investigation for Yorke Peninsula.