Flooding closed the Warrego Highway at Laidley Creek from Friday evening to today. The highway is the main thoroughfare for bulk and containerized grain for export via Brisbane. Photo: Queensland Police

THE supply chain for agricultural produce in southeast Queensland slowed on Friday as widespread flooding cut off highways and rail lines and halted shipments.

However, a drop in rain today is expected to allow containers and bulk grain to be loaded onto ships moored in Brisbane. The Warrego Highway linking the Darling Downs and Brisbane reopened this morning.

The Brisbane River is in spate and merchant ships moored near its mouth are unlikely to move for a day or two, weather permitting.

In a statement released today, the Chief Financial Officer of Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) neil stephens said the Brisbane Regional Harbor Master (RHM) had not declared any movement in and out of the port, but that was being looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Stephens said PBPL will start inspecting critical shipping areas as soon as it is safe to do so today.

“PBPL is also working with the RHM on a plan to clear debris in and around waterfront infrastructure,” Stephens said.

Rain and flooding caused minor, superficial damage to a number of port roads in all neighborhoods.

“It is understood that there are no access restrictions on the port roads at this time.

“There are no rail movements in and out of the BMT (Brisbane Multi-modal Terminal) due to wider rail network issues; however, the BMT itself remains operational.

Loading resumes at QBT

Brisbane has two grain terminals, Wilmar’s Queensland Bulk Terminals (QBT) and GrainCorp’s Fisherman Islands.

The two are involved in a turbulent wheat export program.

GrainCorp had no ship in dock when the deluge began last week, but QBT brought in the Venture Harmony on Wednesday evening to load cargo for ETG bound for Bangladesh.

General Manager QBT Brett Tomlinson said he hoped he could start loading wheat into the hatches today.

“We hope to be empty this week so that we can start admission again,” Mr Tomlinson said.

QBT only receives grain for export by road and, ahead of the flood, was due to start receiving wheat and sorghum tomorrow, which are reserved for loading ships arriving next month.

“It was supposed to be from Tuesday; now it looks like Thursday.

Pleasure boats all along the Brisbane River broke their moorings in the flooding, and two small yachts ran aground in the Venture Harmony.

Mr Tomlinson said the bulk carrier and the QBT terminal do not appear to have suffered any damage from flooding or wreckage, but the yachts housed will have to be removed by the Port Authority.

GWF Moorooka factory floods

Brisbane has two flour mills, GWF’s Moorooka Mill in Yeerongpilly and the Allied Pinnacle Mill in nearby Tennyson.

An industry source said the Moorooka plant is expected to be out of service for about two weeks.

“The bakeries it supplies have yet to operate, so the company will be trucking flour out of its other mills,” the source said.

It will probably be Enfield in Sydney.

“There is water at ground level, but no crushing equipment has been affected.”

Grain Central understands that the Allied Pinnacle plant is not affected.

Trade, trucking juggle challenges

Animal feed mills in the Darling Downs and Brisbane Valley continue to operate with available input stocks and the ability to deliver finished feed to a small number of households.

Not all roads were cut at the same time, meaning traders and transport operators were able to consult to find lanes for certain inbound and outbound loads.

Director of Daltrans Bulk Haulage Dallas Kropp is based in Dalby, and manages a fleet of around 15 trucks including contractors.

“Our demand is for wheat, and it goes everywhere,” Kropp said.

“It’s going to factories and export, and demand is strong.”

Much of the Daltrans fleet has been parked since Friday due to the closure of the Warrego motorway and localized flooding on the Darling and Western Downs.

“We practically went down today.

“I’ve sent a few trucks to Roma to pick up grain, but they could get stuck if the highway at Dalby is cut off.”

The Cunningham Freeway linking Brisbane to Warwick was closed by floodwaters yesterday, and this has been an option for some transport operators who have higher mass limit (HML) permits for the route.

Director of Australian Choice Exports james hunt said the trucking companies have been in touch to say the containers they collected from packers in the Downs are not moving.

“If the Warrego Highway is cut off they just can’t get to the port in many cases,” Mr Hunt said.

He said congestion in Sydney’s Port Botany had already disrupted arrival times for some container ships, most of which carry pulses and grains to South East or North Asia.

From Brisbane, it is mainly sorghum destined for China, as well as first mung beans destined for China and Vietnam.

“Things that we’ve packed up and are sitting on trucks can’t get there to meet the next ship, so they’ll come back to the next one.

“It’s an expectation and a watch for us.”

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