Darwin Port lease

The Northern Territory Government has entered into a long term lease with the Landbridge Group to operate the Port of Darwin.

The port has not been sold. It remains a Territory asset, and the Territory retains strong regulatory controls to ensure safety and a level playing field through regulating prices and access. Read the law.

Economic benefits

The lease of the port has resulted in:

  • $506 million to invest in new economic infrastructure for the benefit of all Territorians
  • $35 million investment from Landbridge in the first five years in infrastructure to increase capacity at the port
  • $200 million investment from Landbridge within the next 25 years
  • $500,000 from Landbridge for community sponsorship in the first year
  • $100,000 from Landbridge in ongoing community sponsorship each year following
  • Tender and procurement opportunities for NT businesses.

Port operation

Under the lease, the Landbridge Group will have day to day operation and control of the port. Landbrige will also be responsible to grow and develop port operations and infrastructure in line with the growing Territory economy.

What has been leased

The area that has been leased to Landbridge is relatively small when compared to the total area of the declared boundary of the Port of Darwin. 

The leased area includes:

  • East Arm Wharf and the land and waters next to the wharf
  • Darwin Marine Supply Base
  • Fort Hill Wharf which is used for cruise ships and Defence vessels
  • bulk fuel terminal that is leased to VOPAK
  • land adjacent to the railway for possible future development.

Areas not leased

The following areas will continue to be operated by the Northern Territory Government:

  • Stokes Hill Wharf
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Hornibrook’s Wharf
  • Frances Bay Mooring Basin including Sadgroves Creek moorings.

Environmental regulation

Nothing has changed as a result of the lease to Landbridge. The NT Environment Protection Authority will continue to regulate environmental issues at all NT ports.

Any private port operator must comply with the NT and Federal Government’s environmental legislation.

Fair access to the port and pricing

As the port operator, Landbridge has the power to set port prices. 

The NT Government will undertake a price monitoring role with the Utilities Commission as the independent statutory regulator. Where there is evidence of inappropriate pricing behavior, the government has the capacity to step in to regulate prices. 

This approach is considered to deliver an appropriate balance between commercial certainty for an investor and a level of independent pricing, oversight and scrutiny.

The Ports Management Act imposes a legislative obligation on all designated port operators, including Landbridge, not to unreasonably hinder access to port services and unfairly discriminate between port users. Landbridge will be required to develop an access policy consistent with guidelines issued by the Utilities Commissioner.

Maritime Safety

Maritime Safety is of paramount importance to the Northern Territory Government. Under the Ports Management Act, the NT Government has created the new position of Regional Harbourmaster within the Department of Transport. 

The regional harbourmaster has a number of roles and functions, including:

  • setting technical and safety standards for pilotage and the provision of pilotage services
  • promulgating depths and under keel clearances 
  • issuing guidelines for the preparation of port safety management plans and approval and audit of such plans 
  • being a pilotage authority for the port - as such, the regional harbourmaster will license pilots and will have the powers to direct and step in during times of emergency
  • exercising step-in rights because of an emergency, or in order to avert a threat of death or serious injury to any person, or loss or serious damage to property, or actual or potential harm to the environment

The regional harbourmaster has step-in rights for the following relevant functions:

  • direction and control of vessels within the port pilotage
  • movement, handling and storage of dangerous goods
  • approval and management of maritime navigational aids
  • clearances of wrecks and removal of vessels
  • closure of the port and relevant waters.

Worker safety and dangerous goods

Nothing has changed as a result of the lease to Landbridge. WorkSafe NT and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will continue to investigate and prosecute safety incidents at ports.

WorkSafe NT will also continue to regulate dangerous goods at the port. The Regional Harbourmaster will also have the power to board vessels to inspect dangerous goods.

Vessel safety

Nothing has changed as a result of the lease to Landbridge. The Northern Territory Government will continue to issue vessel surveys and safety manning requirements as a delegate of the National Marine Safety Regulator.

Planning approvals

The planning regime for the Port of Darwin will remain unchanged.

Last updated: 24 August 2016