The Government of the Northern Territory has selected Chinese energy and infrastructure group Landbridge to operate Australia’s Port of Darwin for $506m.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Darwin Port land and facilities of East Arm Wharf including the Darwin Marine Supply Base and Fort Hill Wharf will be leased to Landbridge Group for a period of 99 years.

However, the Territory will retain the Stokes Hill Wharf, Fisherman’s & Hornibrook’s Wharves and Frances Bay facilities and continue to hold a 20% interest in the Port of Darwin.

“It’s a powerful sign of the enhanced commercial relationship between Australia and China flowing from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.”

Additionally, the Territory will also keep a range of oversight and regulatory functions such as the Regional Harbourmaster role and manage the price and access regulation through the independent Utilities Commission.

Australia’s Federal Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said: “This is a wonderful outcome for the Northern Territory, and for Australia as a whole.

“It’s a powerful sign of the enhanced commercial relationship between Australia and China flowing from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.”

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By GlobalData

Landbridge intends to hold events in both Darwin and China to strengthen Darwin’s ties with China, inviting senior representatives from government and key corporates including Chinese airlines, infrastructure investors and potential trade partners, the Northern Territory government said in a statement.

Landbridge is expected to support the Territory’s initiatives for future development and expansion of the Port.

Landbridge Infrastructure Australia’s director Mike Hughes said: “Through our significant investment in the Port of Darwin, Landbridge intends to grow two way trade between Australia and Asia, leveraging Landbridge’s existing port and logistics businesses and firmly putting Darwin on the map for Chinese business.

“We plan on making considerable financial investment in the Port of Darwin.

“In addition to committing an initial $35m of new growth investment expenditure over the first 5 years, we anticipate in excess of $200m of capital expenditure over the next 25 years. Given the scope of development opportunities in the Territory, we hope to invest a lot more.”

Landbridge Group network will be utilised to promote oil and gas, mineral exports, live cattle export, inbound tourism and other investments in the Territory to the Asian business community.