The mining, metals and petroleum firm will construct a new eight pen tug harbour at the port as well as the upgrade of workshop facilities, operational and service berths and two small boat moorings at the existing Nelson Point Tug Harbour.
“The project will mitigate the risk of a channel blockage by ensuring the continued safe escort of vessels in and out of the Port Hedland Inner Harbour,” Jimmy Wilson, Iron Ore President at BHP Billiton Iron Ore President explained.
“This project will enable BHP Billiton to safely meet projected demand for tug services and effectively manage shipping risk for all users of the Port Hedland Port.”
BHP has the exclusive licence to operate tug services at Port Hedland but has faced previous difficulties due to union action at the site that has limited exports. Rival mining firm Fortescue showed support for BHP’s latest investment praising the move and claiming it would prevent the business being held to ransom.
"I think it is a very wise move and it just shows the importance of thinking about these things strategically and long term. We are very keen to make sure we have a long-term, sustainable provision of towage services that is not going to create a bottleneck or hold the business to ransom," Nev Power, chief executive of rival mining firm Fortescue commented.
Port Hedland cargo throughput growth hits 29% y-o-y
The port is one of the largest iron ore loading ports in the world recently increased its rank in Shanghai International Shipping Institute’s (SISI) Global Port Development Report (2014).
The port rose to 11th place in terms of cargo throughput in 2014 with over 42 million tonnes handled. This was an increase from just 33 million tonnes in 2013, growth of 29.4% year on year.
Port Hedland's harbour is managed by the state-owned Port Hedland Port Authority, and is the largest port by throughput in Australia.
Construction work for the new upgrades are scheduled to start in the December this year with the project expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2016. The project is expected to create up to 200 jobs in Port Hedland during construction.