The Darwin Port Corporation says it is losing business because a crane needed to unload cargo from ships is broken and will not be replaced for up to three months.
The Corporation board met today to discuss options for a replacement.
In the meantime, ships are using their own cranes to unload cargo.
Chief Executive Terry O’Connor says the disruption is one of several barriers preventing growth at the East Arm port.
He says, despite a record increase in trade over the past year, some potential customers are still opting to trade through southern ports, where fees are cheaper.
“Our population basis is so much smaller that the sheer weight of numbers means the cost of [moving] containers is so much more,” he said.
Live cattle exports are bouncing back and Inpex is driving a large portion of the Darwin Port Corporation’s 31 per cent increase in trade over the past year.
The Northern Territory Government is conducting a scoping study for a possible second port.
A report will be released later this year.
Chief Minister Adam Giles has said a second “dirty” port at Glyde Point, near Darwin, could be a place for the shipping of bulk materials like iron ore and ilmenite.
In July, Australia’s independent infrastructure advisory body called for investment in ports, including Darwin, to be made a national priority.
Infrastructure Australia said a $300 million restructure of the East Arm facility would have strong strategic and economic benefit.