Supporting sea freight availability for Norfolk Island

Given the critical importance of reliable shipping and freight for Norfolk Island, I wanted to provide you an update on a range of issues relating to sea freight supply.

The Australian Government continues to actively support availability of freight services to Norfolk Island, and work closely with the Norfolk Island Regional Council (NIRC), industry and the community to implement immediate and longer-term solutions to address supply chain challenges.

Two new lighter vessels have been ordered and are on track to arrive on island in April. The Department has worked with NIRC and lighter crew to source modern vessels that will support continued lighterage operations. The lighter crew will undertake trials and training on the new vessels before the next sea freight voyage arrives. On current timelines, there is not anticipated to be any disruptions to shipping services from the changeover.

We are grateful to the lighter crew for their help with this project. The Government recognises and acknowledges the generations of lighter crew who have worked in often difficult conditions for the good of the community. The new vessels will continue lighterage traditions while providing a safer and more efficient platform for the lighter crew to move freight from ship to shore.

I am looking forward to seeing how the retiring lighterage vessels may provide a cornerstone for the interpretation and storytelling of this unique aspect of Norfolk Island’s maritime heritage. The Department’s Kingston team are looking to complement the Norfolk Island Museum’s lightering heritage project, which is partly funded by the Australian Government’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Program.

We continue working with industry on additional voyages to supplement the existing shipping schedule over the coming months, helping address critical demand while we continue to progress measures to reduce freight backlog.

The Department and NIRC have organised an additional small freight vessel to deliver the lighters and Government project cargo, making more space on commercial vessels for the community.

In light of the new lighter vessels, and the landing that NIRC is progressing, the Department is placing the interim landing structure at Cascade on hold once environmental and development approval processes are finalised. The project can be progressed in future if needed. In the meantime, the Department will continue to work closely with the Council to progress initiatives to improve port infrastructure at Norfolk Island.

Shipping expert Greig Robertson has now arrived on Norfolk Island to work closely with the community and the Department to design a targeted, robust, end-to-end shipping supply chain to meet the long-term needs of the Norfolk Island community.

Over the next few months, Mr Robertson will be undertaking research activities and engaging with key stakeholders, including the Freight Working Group, and community representatives, supported by my Office.

His advice, informed by the experience and expertise of the community, will help underpin our future strategy to support reliable and sustainable shipping services for Norfolk Island.

Any enquiries on freight issues can be made to:

Eric Hutchinson
Administrator of Norfolk Island 
March 2022