Nobbys used to be an island and was twice as tall. It caused a problem for early sailors visiting Newcastle as ships entering the port would lose the wind in their sails as they passed the tall, rocky outcrop. In 1855 convict labour was used to physically reduce to size of Nobbys by 27.5 metres. The resulting rock was then used as part of the construction of the Nobbys Breakwater. In 1846, Nobbys was joined to the mainland by the breakwater and Macquarie Pier.
In the early days, the Port of Newcastle had a reputation for being a hazardous port to enter. The Nobbys and Stockton breakwaters were built to stop the big swells from sweeping ships across the harbour. Construction of the Nobbys breakwater commenced with convict labour in 1818 and Nobbys was officially joined to the mainland in 1846. Construction of the Stockton breakwater began in 1861. The vessel Adolphe ran aground on the Stockton breakwater and remnants of the wreckage still remain.
Ship sizes: Bulk carriers call at the Port of Newcastle and the main types are: Handy (20,000 to 35,000 tonnes); Panamax
(50,000 to 90,000 tonnes); and Cape (90,000 to 180,000 tonnes). You can tell the difference between the vessels by counting the number of hatches. (Cape: 9 hatches, Panamax: 7 hatches, Handy: 5 hatches). Other vessels calling into Newcastle include fuel tankers, navy vessels, cruise ships, heavy lift ships and general cargo and bulk ships.
The Port operates to an 8 tug program, and Svitzer provides towage services. The tugs are very powerful, ensuring the safe berthing of a vessel and the safe, efficient departure of vessels leaving the port. operate 24 hours a day within the port. All ships entering or departing the port must be accompanied by tug boats to help ships stay within the channel and assist with berthing.
Many river systems feed into the Hunter River, bringing natural sediments continuously into the harbour bed from upstream. This is why flooding in the Hunter River, upstream of the Port can result in the harbour turning a brown colour due to the heavy flow of siltation.
Port of Newcastle is responsible for maintaining the depth of the deep water channel to 15.2 metres for commercial shipping. Areas of the channel that are not dredged can be as shallow as 2 or 3 metres.
Maintenance dredging prevents the build-up of silt and to keep the channel open for commercial shipping.
About 2,200 ships visit the Port of Newcastle each year, which is about 6 ships per day. Day or night, there is always something happening.
Vessel scheduling is the central point for the movement of vessels entering and departing the Port. The Port’s team of vessel schedulers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week coordinating the efficient movement of vessels in the Port of Newcastle, working closely with terminals, shipping agents and service providers.
Dredging Maintenance dredging of the Port is undertaken to prevent the build up of silt from upstream and keep the channel open. Tasked with this important job is one of the quiet achievers of the Port, the David Allan, a trailer suction dredge operating 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. The David Allan was built at Carrington Slipways at Tomago.
There are 72 navigational aids strategically located around the Port. The most familiar navigational aid for visitors to the port would be the Front Main Lead Navigation Towers on the foreshore near Queens Wharf. The fluorescent orange triangle shaped aids provided are critical to the safe movement of ships in the harbour. The fluorescent orange triangle shaped aids provided are critical to the safe movement of ships in the harbour.
The Destiny sculpture at the tip of Dyke Point was created by Julie Squires and installed in 1999 to mark 200 years of commercial shipping in the Port of Newcastle. The 8 metre sculpture is inspired by the traditional figure heads on the bows of early sailing ships. Destiny stands on a global sphere and symbolises the future. Each strand of her hair represents the seven seas.
The GrainCorp and Newcastle Agri Terminal silos are a familiar feature at the Port of Newcastle. The GrainCorp grain export terminal was opened on the western side of the Basin in 1971. Newcastle Agri Terminal’s grain export facility commenced operations in 2014. A good growing season can result in more than one million mass tonnes of wheat exports in a year. Meals and grains, such as sorghum, barley, canola, maize, canola meal and cottonseed meal, are also handled in large quantities. These products such as pasta and other food products, such as pasta, livestock feed and the production of ethanol.
The Carrington Hydraulic Engine House (‘the Pumphouse’) was built in 1876. Hydraulic powered cranes were used for loading coal. It no longer powers cranes, but is an important reminder of the area’s industrial heritage and a striking example of Victorian architecture.
Cruise ships berth at the Channel Berth, located at Dyke Point. The Channel Berth is also used to berth navy ships from time to time. Cruise ship passengers are welcomed at the berth by cruise volunteers and take part in day trips to the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens, Morpeth or the Central Coast, or enjoy sightseeing around Newcastle and Stockton. Port of Newcastle is building a cruise terminal at the Channel Berth, which will enable the Port to attract more cruise ships in the future. The largest ship to enter the Port is the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, at 317 metres in length, carrying around 2,850 passengers. Celebrity Solstice will return to the Port of Newcastle in 2017 and 2018.
There are three types of buoys used in the Port of Newcastle – Ocean, Harbour or River Class. The buoys aid in safe navigation by providing ship masters with a visual signal indicating the sides of the shipping channel.
Port of Newcastle’s survey team utilises the custom-made survey vessel, JT Gowlland, and its on-board multibeam echo sounder to map the harbour floor. Surveying the port is vital to informing the David Allan dredger about the areas that require maintenance dredging and also detecting any navigational hazards. The JT Gowlland was built at Redhead.
Port of Newcastle is the world’s largest coal export port. Port Waratah Coal Services operates two coal terminals at Carrington and Kooragang Island. Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s terminal is located on Kooragang Island.
Walsh Point has frontage to the north and south arms of the Hunter River and is used for the loading and unloading of a range of bulk cargoes. It includes a large area of industrial land used for heavy industry and manufacturing. Commodities: Bulk cargo (e.g. fertiliser), bulk liquids and general cargo / containers.
Kooragang is the port’s primary coal precinct. Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) and Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG) each have a terminal here. Coal is transferred via a conveyor belt system to the loading heads at the wharves and then onto ships. There are three coal terminals in the port which have a combined capacity of 211 million tonnes per annum. In 2015 the port handled 158.1 million tonnes of coal.
Berths: Kooragang 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
The Mayfield Precinct includes the former BHP site and has undergone extensive remediation since the steelworks closed in 1999. It is now the largest vacant parcel of port land on the eastern seaboard of Australia and Port of Newcastle is currently installing services (electricity, water and telecommunications) to the site. The David Allan ties up at the BHP 6 berth.
Commodities: General cargo / containers, project cargo (such as wind turbines), mineral concentrates, bulk fuels and machinery.
Berths: Mayfield 4, BHP 6 Berth and Mayfield 7 (under construction).
The Carrington Precinct is one of the oldest areas of the Port and handles a diverse range of cargoes. Cruise vessels dock at the Channel Berth in Carrington, where passengers disembark for connections to various local and regional tourism destinations. The Channel berth is also used to berth navy ships and vessels that arrive to the port early.
Commodities: Grains, orange juice concentrate, machinery, project cargo, general cargo/containers, petroleum products, mineral concentrates, coal.
Berths: West Basin 3, West Basin 4, East Basin 1, East Basin 2, Channel Berth, Dyke 1, Dyke 2, Dyke 4, Dyke 5.