NSW grain export logistics in chaos after derailment

NSW grain export logistics in chaos after derailment

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A train derailment and the subsequent closure of a critical rail line is hitting east coast grain exporters hard.

A train derailment and the subsequent closure of a critical rail line is hitting east coast grain exporters hard.

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A crucial rail line is out of action at the worst possible time for those looking to export grain out of Port Kembla in NSW.

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EAST coast grain exporters are closely monitoring the situation in regards to grain exports out of Port Kembla after a grain train derailed on the Moss Vale to Unanderra railway line, closing the line indefinitely.

An estimate for reopening the line, which is critical in bringing in grain from the south west slopes and Riverina into Port Kembla, has not yet been provided, but given the remote nature of where the damage occurred it is unlikely to be before the end of the year.

With shipping slots at a premium and a massive export program underway, exporters are thinking outside the square on how they can get grain to Port Kembla.

It is difficult to move big volumes of grain by road over the Great Dividing Range, which soars to 800 metres just out of Wollongong, where Port Kembla is located, and features a number of steep inclines.

The train derailment took place in one of those steep and hilly areas, making the repairs more difficult.

There are two grain ports at Port Kembla, one operated by GrainCorp, Australia's largest grain export port by capacity, and one operated by Qube.

GrainCorp is currently loading two 60,000 wheat vessels, one for itself and the other for Cargill according to shipping stem information on its website.

The derailment will also have implications for Manildra's large gluten making facility at Nowra, one of Australia's largest domestic buyers of wheat.

It is possible to divert grain trains via Sydney and then down the coast to Wollongong, but it will take extra time at a period when logistics crews are already racing against the clock to move a massive crop.

However, GrainCorp general manager of trading Sean Barker was confident the disruptions would be kept to a minimum.

"Supply chain disruptions are something that our business deals with on a regular basis - whether it's related to weather or transportation," Mr Barker said.

"While disappointing that the derailment will cause us some delays and impact our immediate plans to get rail tonnes to port, our teams have carried out contingency planning to maintain efficient delivery for our customers."

Tom Guthrie, Clear Grain Exchange national business development manager, said it could influence price for growers with unsold grain if buyers were delayed in getting their export slots, but added industry would be working to get the matter resolved.

"The grain will still be getting to port, it just may take longer," he said.

The crash, which happened on the morning of December 15, involved 39 grain wagons coming off the track.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said the organisation was assessing recovery and repair tasks.

He confirmed the repairs would not be easy.

"Due to the location of the derailed wagons and damage to the track, the recovery process will face access challenges."

He said ARTC was working with customers to identify potential alternative train routes to the port.

While the most disruptive, the Moss Vale - Unanderra derailment was not the only issue on national railroads this week.

The ARTC spokesperson confirmed there was also the derailment of 10 grain wagons on the Benalla-Oaklands line near St James, in north-eastern Victoria, on December 14.

He said the line, which services many southern Riverina sites that have had monster years this season, would be closed until further notice.

However, the topography means it is easy to road freight the grain, which will generally head for the Port of Melbourne, instead.

The story NSW grain export logistics in chaos after derailment first appeared on Farm Online.

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