THE OVERSEAS wharf extension at Lae was officially opened by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on 30 October.

The new port facility will be used for berthing of construction cargo vessels for mining activities in the Morobe and Highlands areas and to provide efficient service to Lae.

The wharf was extended by an additional 108 metres to relieve congestion and allow efficient ship turnaround times for the country’s largest and busiest port.

The port wharves can now cater for additional ships to berth, with the previous maximum intake of 55 ships per month expected to increase to 68.

Mr O’Neill was impressed with the new facilities and said work would continue into the second phase, including the commissioning of the Lae Tidal basin project.

“This wharf is going to be the hub of trading activity for the Pacific, as well as Australia and New Zealand, as it can cater for large ships that carry bigger loads and would continue to serve out of this port,” Mr O’Neill said.

“It is very important that the second stage of the project is completed as planned so that it can facilitate growing business activities in Lae and many other parts of the country.”

Mr O’Neill said the expanded facility would compliment other major projects such as the Wafi Golpu mine and other mining projects taking place in the vicinity of the port.

PNG Ports chief executive Stanley Alphonse said the provision of the extra berthing space would reduce the current congestion for container vessel berthing and ship turnaround times.

He said the additional berthing space was being provided while the Lae Tidal basin project neared completion.

He said the combined overall length of the berths for the overseas wharf, coastal wharf and the tanker berth had now increased from 656 to 764 metres.

The new tidal basin port, when completed, would complement the existing Lae Port wharves, further reduce ship berthing problems and reduce the cost of demurrage charges to shipping companies.

Speaking to PNG Ports staff and management, Mr O’Neill encouraged those involved with the port expansion to think big and work to continually to increase efficiencies as it grows.

He said the government had inherited a range of infrastructure deficiencies following decades of neglect but funding was being allocated to key projects.

“We can spend millions of kina on projects like this, but to make it work we have to go beyond old practices and work at world standards,” he said.