The Mirror News

Esso looks to exit Barry Beach

ESSO is considering outsourcing its operations at the Barry Beach Marine Terminal.

A spokesperson for Esso’s parent company, ExxonMobil, said that a recent review of the Esso-operated facility

near Port Welshpool has identified “significant underutilised capacity”.

“As a result, Esso has sought expressions of interest from potential new operators for this facility, with the intention

that any new provider would provide supply depot services to Esso’s offshore platforms, as well as utilising unused

capacity to provide services to third party customers,” said the spokesperson.

“A new operator, appropriately skilled in logistics, will be able to better manage the combined needs of Esso and

other potential facility users.”

The spokesperson added: “Until an agreement has been made, it is too early to indicate what the impact will be on

current employees.”

The Barry Beach Marine Terminal is currently the base from which 70,000 tonnes or so of food, supplies, fuel and

equipment are sent to the oil and gas platforms of Bass Strait. Exxon is hoping for interest from a third party that can

get more out of the port than just servicing Bass Strait.

Since the 1960s, Exxon has produced more than 4 billion barrels of oil from Bass Strait, which at its peak was

producing 500,000 barrels of oil a day, making it one of the world’s biggest producing regions.

When production was at its peak, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Esso had over 1000 employees at Barry

Beach, mainly on short-term contracts to construct and maintain the offshore oil rigs.

Oil production has slumped in recent years, and gas is becoming the main focus for ExxonMobil. It plans to exit its

Bass Strait oil operations, which it manages in a 50-50 joint venture with BHP Billiton, and concentrate on gas. It is

consequently divesting itself of some of its assets.

“We have to make the necessary ­adjustments to the business to make ourselves fit and lean,” said Exxon

Australia chairman Richard Owen in a recent interview in The Australian.

“The terminal provides support for offshore platforms but it also has the opportunity to be more of a mixed-use

port,” said Mr Owen.

These days the workforce at Esso’s Barry Beach marine terminal is substantially smaller than it used to be,

numbering only about a dozen. [The Mirror contacted ExxonMobil for an exact figure, but the company failed to get

back to us before our deadline.] Any exit by Esso from Barry Beach would have wide-ranging repercussions,

however. The resource giant prides itself on its community involvement, and over the years it has supported as many

as 200 community groups and organisations in the vicinity of Barry Beach, including local hospitals and schools,

through its Community Contributions Program.

Meanwhile, John Anthony, whose ‘Port Anthony Gateway to Growth’ project is located just south of the marine

terminal at Barry Beach, told The Mirror that the loss of Esso would not affect his project, which has been in the

development stage as a bulk goods port for more than ten years.

In 2011, when Peter Ryan was Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, as well as

Member for Gippsland South, the then Coalition State Government contributed $2 million to Port Anthony,

anticipating up to 20 local jobs in the construction of the port, with 90 jobs to follow in the next two years. Five years

later, there is little to show for all the money.

“We’ve got a lot in the pipeline” was how Mr Anthony described his project last week. He said the TEK-Ocean

vessel was using the port, but would not comment further. He said he would be issuing a statement shortly.

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