Southern Ports amalgamation review leaves future of Esperance port operations unclear

The future of how the Esperance Port will operate is up in the air with the state government reviewing the success of the amalgamation.

In October 2014 the Liberal state government merged Esperance, Albany, and Bunbury port authorities to form the Southern Ports Authority.

Last month the now Labor state government announced a post-implementation review of the amalgamation which is expected to finish in December. Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she was looking forward to receiving an independent analysis of the facts.

"It's clear to me from my travels in the South-West, Great Southern and Goldfields-Esperance regions in the past couple of years that people hold a range of views about the success or otherwise of the amalgamation, and whether it has been good for the regions,” she said.

The review is being chaired by chaired by Agricultural Region MLC Laurie Graham. Maritime Union of Australia assistant branch secretary Jeff Cassar said the amalgamation was “a catastrophe” for respective communities.

“Port Authorities are intended to serve two primary purposes; making profit and benefitting the local community. The amalgamation has resulted in a management structure based out of Perth determining what is best for rural communities with their own individual needs,” he said.

“I have been dealing with the collateral damage caused by this centralised management structure; who have had their lives turned upside down in order to deliver on the previous state government’s privatisation agenda.”

Southern Ports chief executive Nicolas Fertin said all Southern Ports payroll services were based in Esperance which provided professional development opportunities for staff.

“In addition, maintenance in Bunbury was brought in-house in August provided an opportunity for an apprentice from Esperance to be appointed to a full-time role in Bunbury,” he said.

Mr Fertin said he acknowledged that there would be differing views on the amalgamtion.

“Recommendations from reviews like this can be helpful in addressing issues and make our three ports even better in a rapidly changing economy,” he said.

Mr Cassar said the union would be making a recommendation to the review which would include reverting back to the separate port authorities. “What is abundantly clear is that things cannot continue as they have been,” he said.