Southern Ports – Port of Esperance workers have been a dealt another blow, after losing a quarter of the organisation's trade from the troubled First Quantum Minerals Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation.
First Quantum makes up 25 per cent of Southern Ports’ in-house stevedored ship movements and about 500,000 tonnes of the port’s annual trade.
On Wednesday the Canadian mining giant announced its operations would enter care and maintenance by September, with reports of about 450 staff affected by the change.
Southern Ports chief executive officer Nicolas Fertin said the suspension of it operations has promoted Southern Ports’ management team to work to quantify the impact this change in circumstances would have on the organisation and how it might be best managed.
“It was an unexpected announcement and I cannot shy away from saying we are facing difficult times ahead for us as an organisation,” Mr Fertin said.
First Quantum’s business with Southern Ports includes importing 411,000 tonnes of sulphur in the past year, exporting almost 100,000 tonnes of nickel in containers and stevedoring for all trade.
Southern Ports also revealed the miner leases a crane and other infrastructure such as sulphur sheds.
First Quantum totalled 24 ship movements of last year, which represents about one quarter of all ships.
Mr Fertin said Southern Ports would work closely with staff and their representatives, including unions, to derive a way forward for their Esperance operations.
“The infrastructure which has been used to facilitate FQM trade is sound and I would hope attractive for other customers, however it does take time to find and negotiate terms to facilitate a new trade,” Mr Fertin said.
“I have spoken to the FQM management and will continue to work with them to establish what this suspension means for Southern Ports as we expect it will be different to a complete shut-down of operations.
“This latest news comes in the middle of an expression of interest for voluntary redundancy process and we remain to responding to staff who have submitted expressions of interest by the end of this week and we will do so.”