Could a capped Fremantle port reconnect Freo with its waterfront?
November 13, 2015 9 Comments
Today the largest cruise ship based in Australia, Explorer of the Seas, arrived at Fremantle passenger terminal. I couldn’t help but cringe though as streams of people pulling their suitcases headed from central Fremantle to the passenger terminal in the hot sun across this unattractive zone in between. It should and could be so much better.
Interestingly the postponement of stage two of the Perth Freight Link (PFL) could improve this situation, just as it creates some much needed breathing space for a major rethink of infrastructure investment around freight and Fremantle. In fact, a capped Fremantle inner harbour with an overflow port in Kwinana would be the best outcome.
In this scenario Fremantle would continue as a container port but with containers limited to a long-term cap of between 500,000 and 800,000 per year (it is at around 740,000 now).
This cap means it would be possible to confine the port operations to the North Quay side of the port and liberate the South Quay from port operations and finally reconnect Fremantle to its waterfront.
At the moment some of the lowest value land uses like parking cars and unloading scrap metal are performed on some of the best and most valuable land in WA.
Instead imagine a publicly accessible historic port waterfront from the WA Maritime Museum down to the Fremantle traffic bridge. Imagine the Fremantle Passenger Terminal not surrounded by a sea of parked cars but instead being part of an attractive precinct to greet cruise ship tourists. Imagine restaurants, bars and cafes overlooking the working cranes across the water on North Quay.
All of this should be Fremantle’s future. It should not be cramming a bigger and bigger container port into a confined port space, dependent upon WA’s most expensive road to get freight in and out efficiently.
From a state government budget perspective the high land values of South Quay could be realized to improve the budget. There is over 120,000m2 of prime harbour front land that is currently used for solely operational purposes (primarily storing new cars). Even a conservative figure of $2000m2 for the land value it is worth around a quarter of a billion dollars to the state.
Importantly, the death of the PFL doesn’t have to mean the end of the working port in Fremantle. I appreciate this is a contentious argument and many would be happy to see the Fremantle container port go entirely and just be a port that does tourist, navy, and novelty ships. Personally I don’t think another touristy, soulless Darling Harbour style outcome is the best outcome for raffish, authentic Fremantle. The port gives Fremantle a key part of its sea-salty soul and we should do all we can to keep that.
With a bit of creativity and good planning we can have the best of both worlds: a bigger Fremantle CBD that is better connected to its unique waterfront AND a continuing working port which provides an important economic and cultural backdrop to Fremantle.
It would also mean a less cringe worthy treatment of the growing number of cruise ship visitors that come through our wonderful port.