Sinkhole causes port chaos

Claire Tyrrell and Ben O'HalloranCountryman

Grain and iron ore haulage at Geraldton Port were thrown into disarray this week, after a big sinkhole prevented the movement of freight by rail.

It resulted in 7200 tonnes of canola being held back and up to 240 extra grain trucks put onto roads after a 30-metre sinkhole formed at the southern end of the port on Saturday.

CBH acting Geraldton zone manager Justin Bayles said the disruption put added pressure on CBH's receivals during a record harvest for the zone.

"We have rearranged the logistics to get the current grain required into vessels via trucks," he said.

Mr Bayles said the sinkhole had not yet affected CBH's shipping schedule out of Geraldton Port but could if it continued for much longer.

He said CBH had planned to bring an extra train on line this Sunday, to help cope with this harvest's record 3.6 million tonne crop.

Before the sinkhole developed, CBH had one locomotive carting into the Geraldton port terminal but had planned to have a second running by January 22.

A train in the Geraldton zone can hold about 1800 tonnes of canola or 2200 tonnes of wheat.

Mr Bayles said a train full of canola would sit at Narngulu until the line was repaired, which was expected to be on Friday.

Iron ore miner Karara uses the rail line to cart iron ore from its project east of Morawa to Geraldton port for export to China.

The hole appeared under three rail lines located next to Karara Mining's construction of a dual-wagon tipper, which is part of the company's port upgrades and new inloading facilities.

Karara chief executive Steve Murdoch said an investigation had been launched to find out the cause of the hole.

"We are not even sure if our work in the vicinity has caused the problem," he said.

"However, our priority is to rectify the damage, while we investigate the cause. We have teams working around the clock under the direction of appropriate experts.

"There will be no impact on Karara's port operations and Karara staff are also in constant consultation with other port users."

Mr Murdoch said he expected the rail line to be reopened late Friday afternoon.

Operations at Mt Gibson Iron's Extension Hill project hade been affected by the incident but a company spokesman said it was "not material" at this stage.

This latest incident adds to Geraldton Port's ongoing problems of subsidence and wave-generated surge, which last month closed the port, leaving 13 ships at anchor in Champion Bay.

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