The ACCC has reinstated an interim authorisation—which had previously been revoked—in relation to coal handling and loading arrangements at the Newcastle port in New South Wales. The authorisation follows a Hunter Valley coal industry agreement in relation to ‘capacity framework arrangements’, which was made by the Newcastle Port Corporation (a statutory state-owned corporation responsible for managing and operating port facilities and services in the Port of Newcastle) and port terminal owners/operators Port Waratah Coal Services and Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group.

The agreement is heralded as a long term solution to the capacity constraints and shipping queue problems which have hindered the effective operation of the port and the export of coal from the Hunter Valley. According to the ACCC, it results in terminal operators being able to ask producers to provide binding nominations for their long term terminal capacity requirements, allowing coal chain system capacity to be modelled and long term ship or pay contracts to be entered into for the first time, underpinning future investment and the efficient operation of the coal chain.

The interim authorisation commences immediately and remains in place until the ACCC’s final determination comes into effect. The capacity framework arrangements are expected to commence by January 2010.