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Which Australian port does what, in terms of exporting, importing, and types of cargo? Our round-up gives you a snapshot of salient facts and figures.

PORT HEDLAND—Western Australia

Port Hedland is Australia’s largest tonnage port, with an estimated 105 million tonnes of trade passing through in the 2004/05 financial year. The location of the port makes it perfect for servicing the mining and pastoral industries of the Pilbara region.

Export or import: Almost all (99.5 percent) cargo handled by the port is for export.

What’s hot: Primarily a bulk port, BHP Billiton uses 95 percent of the port to export iron ore. Dampier Salt is the next largest exporter, and there are three public berths for other types of cargo, including manganese ore and copper concentrate.

Where does it go: Export is predominantly to Asian markets, such as Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. It also serves Europe and the east coast of Australia.

DARWIN—Northern Territory

The Port of Darwin has transferred commercial activities to its new East Arm Wharf, while the existing city wharves will continue operations for non-trading vessels and as alternative berths for some commercial shipping. With the $200 million East Arm facilities and a strengthening of the rail link between Darwin and Adelaide, the port is expecting major growth in the future.

Export or import: The port handles almost equal amounts of import and export cargo.

What’s hot: Australia’s first cattle export departed from the port in 1891 and remains our major point of export for cattle. The port plays a major supply and service role in the working life of the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, which accounts for a considerable amount of metal and petroleum products passing through the port.

Where does it go: The location of the port lies halfway between the markets of southern Asia and the south-eastern coast of Australia and is our closest port to the ASEAN region.

PORT ADELAIDE—South Australia

Port Adelaide is the primary shipping point for South Australia, handling 96 percent of all container cargo shipped out of the state.

Export or import: Export far outweighs import for bulk cargo, and there are two export containers for every one import container.

What’s hot: Wine, copper and lead for containerised export. The major bulk export cargoes are wheat, cement, and motor vehicles.

Where does it go: Primary markets include Europe, Africa, India, and Asia (container cargo); Middle East (wheat); and the US, Middle East and New Zealand (motor vehicles).


The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest container and general cargo port. It handles 39 percent of Australia’s container trade.
Forty-two shipping lines serve the port, and it distributes to some
300 ports around the world. The port employs 18,000 people and contributes $5.4 billion to the Victorian economy each year.

Export or import: Almost equal.

What’s hot: Major exports passing through the port include dairy products, cereal grains, fruit and vegetables, motor vehicles, and crude oil.

Where does it go: Main markets for containerised export include New Zealand, China, Japan, and the US. Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and Egypt are the main markets for non-containerised exports.


The Port of Gladstone is one of Australia’s largest multi-cargo ports, handling approximately 34 different cargoes and exporting to 32 countries. Current expansion at the port will boost capacity from 40 million to 65 million tonnes per annum, with coal exports predicted to reach more than 70 million tonnes by 2010.

Export or import: Almost 80 percent of the cargo handled by the port is for export.

What’s hot: This port is another of Australia’s major coal export ports, with coal accounting for 69 percent of total cargo handled.
In the 2004/05 period it exported 43.5 million tonnes of coal to
19 countries.

Where does it go: The top five export destinations from the port are Japan, Korea, India, Taiwan and China.

SYDNEY—New South Wales

Sydney ports comprise Sydney Harbour and Port Botany. It contributes more than $2.5 billion to the state economy and handles nearly one third of Australia’s total containerised trade. Some 30 shipping lines are serviced by the port, servicing trade between Sydney and over 100 destinations around the globe.

Export or import: Sydney ports are predominantly import ports, with twice as many containers being used for import than export.

What’s hot: Over the 2004/05 period, the largest single commodity exported through the ports was chemical products, including plastic materials and resins. Other major export commodities over that time period were non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, cereals, and iron and steel products.

Where does it go: Main markets served by the port are North and East Asia, South East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and North America.

NEWCASTLE—New South Wales

The Port of Newcastle was Australia’s first port and is the world’s largest coal export port. In the 2004/05 period it shipped more than 77 million tonnes of coal.

Export or import: Export is the main focus.

What’s hot: Although coal makes up 90 percent of the cargo handled by the port, its position makes it ideal to serve regional markets, and north/northwest NSW, so it also handles cargo such as grains and fertilisers. The port recently set a trade record with more than 83.5 million tonnes being handled during 2004/05.

Where does it go: International markets served by the port include South East Asia and the Asian Pacific.

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