Could a capped Fremantle port reconnect Freo with its waterfront?

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.


About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

9 Responses to Could a capped Fremantle port reconnect Freo with its waterfront?

  1. mmagus says:


    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.

    I used to love having access to all of Victoria Quay. I remember when quite young walking among men working with cranes and slings unloading stuff. My standard daily run later was along the Quay, which was particularly exciting around Amercicas Cup time. Now I can only walk, I still go along what’s left of it most days.

    I’ve always hated that serious metal fence that keeps the people away from … nothing but cars and more cars. It’s such poor management of a uniquely characteristic location.

    I just hope you can do something about this before I die.

    very best wishes


    (As I usually say: no need to reply – I know you’re very busy and that you will read this.)


  2. Paul says:

    I could not agree more. Having the working port creates a dynamic and unique view for the area and redeveloping Victoria quay and the passenger terminal is very long overdue.

  3. freoview says:

    I too felt embarrassed this morning watching people pulling heavy suitcase along both sides of the railway line. Why is there no shuttle service to pick them up and drop them at the train station.
    The Victoria Quay connection to the Fremantle CBd urgently needs to be improved and the isolation of the passenger terminal needs to be terminated because they area is under-used and should be activated as part of the VQ development.
    There is a lot of development in the eastern CBD and that needs to be followed by development and better connection north of the rail line.

    Roel Loopers

  4. Gareth Hancox says:

    Today I dropped off relatives who had flown into Perth from Sydney to board the Explorer of the Seas. They are fond of Fremantle as a holiday destination and have been four times now.

    With all the excitement in town and the buzz at the port with these two ships docked, it is kind of disappointing that this area is so unaccommodating, ugly and lacking in amenities for these much welcomed and needed national and international tourists. Some only have a brief stay in Fremantle port and that area is all they experience of our city.

    Having also lived opposite the passenger terminal for many years I have witnessed many visitors trudging over the rail bridge only to look bewildered as to where to go next confronted with warehouse facades and car parks. During the day it is exposed to the sun and elements and at night it appears dark and unsafe.

    Explorer of The Seas carries 3100 passengers, offering amenities in the immediate vicinity that are dedicated to those passengers and people associated with them, either dropping off or picking up passengers, would no doubt bring much more tourist spending to the area.

    Our airports and their infrastructure seem to be constantly upgraded, yet our Port passenger terminal probably hasn’t changed since the 1960’s

    For my relatives, Munchies car park and a hike over the railway footbridge in a blistering 35 deg C was the last experience of Fremantle they had. (no disrespect to Munchies)

    (Having said all that, Fremantle is a far sight better than Adelaide, which is the ships next port of call.)

    As for the bigger picture of the port’s redevelopment, I agree that the working Port is a dynamic environment and having lived there, it has many attractive qualities. It is a constantly changing landscape for one. Finding a balance between the redevelopment and it’s functionality is the challenge.


  5. Paula Amaral says:

    “Instead imagine a publicly accessible historic port waterfront from the WA Maritime Museum down to the Fremantle traffic bridge.”

    I love this imagined scenario, you just forgot to include Cantonment Hill in it.
    The Hill has a historic connection to the port, and the best views of the port in the whole of Fremantle. We could still have our interpretation/visitor centre on the ground floor of the Signal Station and public access to its roof terrace for visitors to enjoy the 360 degree spectacular views of the City and its historical sites.
    I really don’t understand why most elected members of the COF just don’t get the historical significance/potential of Cantonment Hill.
    Very sad!!!

  6. maquismail says:

    I can’t upload photos here but I took some too as I was passing. Red faced suffering older couples struggling down to the Freo end of the foot bridge – I think the Munchies drinks fridge may genuinely have saved lives.

  7. Paul says:

    I agree with the sentiments above – The welcome to Fremantle view that cruise passengers get is very uninspiring. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to re-direct confused cruise passengers wondering past ugly car yards in the Eastern part of Fremantle looking for the CBD. The signage needs to be drastically improved.

    Many elderly passengers are faced with a very high, ugly railway bridge to haul their luggage over only to face a walk along a path of broken pavers, no shade and degraded buildings. Is there no tree lined boulevard strategy in place to make Beach Street an entry statement.

    The Freo port is certainly a dynamic environment – bringing the cruise experience closer to the Train station could help create a vibrant new precinct better integrated with Freo CBD.

    For many people this is the first experience they have of Western Australia let alone Fremantle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: