Ports and Transport
Ports & Transport
The export coal industry in Australia is serviced by nine major coal-loading terminals located in Queensland and New South Wales.
As a result of expansion work in recent years, the terminals in 2009-10 had a total handling capacity of almost 350 million tonnes and loaded nearly 300 million tonnes of coal.
Located in the Port of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Port Waratah Coal Services operates the world's largest and most efficient coal handling operations through its two terminals: Carrington and Kooragang.
These receive, assemble and load Hunter Valley coal for export to customers around the world. An expansion of the PWCS terminal is in the pipeline.
With more than 70% of Australia's annual production exported, efficient coal loading at each of the country's nine major ports is paramount. If coal is loaded quickly, ships spend less time in port and freight costs are reduced.
An efficient, economic transport system is a key element in the viability of coal mining in Australia.
The oldest producing areas are located close to the coast where domestic transport is well-established. However as remote deposits are discovered and worked, as production volumes increase, and as the manufacturing/production chain speeds up, it is crucial that the transport infrastructure is simultaneously developed and expanded.
The majority of coal is carried to its destination by rail. In the major producing states, coal is the single most valuable rail freight item and where state rail systems did not originally extend to coal fields, the installation of new track and rolling stock has been funded by the mining companies themselves.
Trains transporting coal are among the longest in the world, with as many as six locomotives and 148 wagons amounting to a length of more than two kilometres. A train of that size can carry about 8,500 tonnes of coal.
An important innovation in Queensland at the beginning of the 1980s was the construction of aluminium wagons equipped with rotating couplings which enable the wagons to be emptied by being turned upside down to reduce unloading time.
The main rail companies operating in Australia are QR National and Pacific National who together service the states of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
Many of Australia's power stations have been built close to the coal mines servicing them and use overland conveyor systems to transport the coal from the mine to the station. At the ports conveyors are also used to carry coal from a stockpile to offshore shiploading berths.
Road transport is used by a number of mines located away from rail facilities but, generally, trucks are used only for shorter hauls to the port or rail loading facilities.
The Australian coal industry is conscious of the impact of road transport on local communities and actively seeks to reduce the impact by selecting, where possible, the least inhabited routes and by improving vehicle safety, noise and cleanliness.