FOR the first time in more than ten years, the Port of Townsville is being used to export Australian beef to key Asian markets.
A small shipment of frozen beef from JBS Australia’s Townsville export abattoir leaves today from the northern port bound for Japan.
JBS has consigned two refrigerated containers per shipment on average on scheduled services since May, with today’s shipment aboard ANL’s vessel, the ‘Hansa Regensburg’ the latest consignment.
For the past 12 months, shipping company ANL has been working with JBS developing and securing future meat exports from Townsville, a Port of Townsville statement said.
Up until the 1990s, beef exports were routinely made through regional ports like Townsville and Mourilyan in North Queensland, and Port Alma and Mackay in Central Queensland, in addition to Brisbane – servicing the network of meat processors up and down the Queensland coast.
Over time, however, shipping lines moved to more cost-competitive ‘hub’ services for all export beef, both chilled and frozen, out of the Port of Brisbane.
Industry stakeholders have occasionally questioned the practice of sending chilled and frozen beef south to Brisbane by road or rail from Central and North Queensland, loading it on a container ship at Port of Brisbane, and setting sail north for Asia – straight past the abattoirs along the coast further north that originally produced it.
‘Hubbing’ containerised products out of large centralised ports like Brisbane is common worldwide, but there were a range of other factors that contributed to the change, veteran meat processing stakeholders told Beef Central this morning.
As container vessels grew ever larger, it became increasingly difficult to use smaller regional ports along the coast. The swing from bulk freight to containerised refrigerated freight also ruled out some regional ports for handling reasons.
Beef Central understands the new shipping service became available as a result of more regular schedules among ships offloading imported cargo at Townsville, including freight like solar panels and whitegoods from Asia. This created opportunities for more regular export schedules through the Port.
JBS Northern chief operating officer Anthony Pratt welcomed ANL’s reefer shipping options from the Townsville Port that started last month.
“The JBS Townsville plant provides a valuable option for North Queensland cattle producers to supply grassfed cattle for processing in the region,’’ Mr Pratt said.
The company’s local Stuart plant processes about 145,000 cattle per year, supporting 500 full-time equivalent jobs and contributing more than $600 million to the local economy.
Mr Pratt said the new freight service allowed JBS to better serve the producers in the region and deliver products more directly and efficiently to its international customers.
Other large northern beef processors like Borthwicks, near Mackay, may be able to tap into the service.
ANL general manager Intra Oceania Trades, Chris Peck said he was pleased to see the benefits of the collective efforts to establish the service.
“We share a long relationship with JBS and the Port of Townsville,’’ Mr Peck said. “ANL has a great partnership with the agricultural sector and sees Australian beef exports, specifically those into North East Asia, as a key commodity with proud history and a strong future.
Townsville Port chief operating officer, Drew Penny said the new venture was a strong sign that the infrastructure investments that the Port had made to grow containerised cargo, including refrigerated cargo, was supporting the aims of North Queensland exporters and international shipping lines.
“Japan is an important trading partner for our region, and we are pleased to have JBS exporting directly out of Townsville,’’ Mr Penny said.
“We are committed to growing agriculture exports directly from Townsville to support our customers, farmers and industries in North Queensland, and we thank JBS for their confidence and support in our shipping lines and port facilities.’’
Headquartered in Melbourne Australia, ANL is part of the CMA CGM Group, a leading worldwide shipping group.
ANL’s history goes back to 1956 when it was established by the Australian Government to operate domestic shipping services around the Australian coast. Over time other routes were added and ANL entered the international trades to and from Australia.
ANL’s volumes have rapidly grown from 70,000 TEUs (standard containers) in 1998 to more than 1.169 million TEUs moved in 2019.