New Darwin port could help replace US Pearl Harbour naval facility

Experts say a new port could replace the US military’s main fuelling station in the Pacific region after the closure of a storage facility at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

The federal budget allocated $1.5 billion to build “new port infrastructure, such as a wharf, an offloading facility and dredging of the shipping channel” in the Northern Territory.

Mr Dutton said in November that stability in the Indo-Pacific “requires the United States to be completely engaged in the region”. He indicated in June he was open to increasing the US marine presence in Darwin and said it was in both countries’ interest for the US to expand its presence in the region.

The federal budget allocated an extra $2 billion to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and expanded its remit to include the Commonwealth territory of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Defence Department announced in 2020 it was upgrading the Cocos Island runway to accommodate surveillance and response aircraft.

The government is also investing $300 million in an industry precinct at Darwin for gas, hydrogen and critical minerals.

“Additional fuel storage, additional logistics, support and port facilities will enable greater flow through of American units, and conceivably stationing on a longer-term basis. Not basing, but possibly stationing at least for periods of time.

Defence must secure northern Australia amid gravest risk since WWII

In 2021 the AUSMIN communiqué agreed to ‘establish a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high-end warfighting and combined military operations in the region’. The location wasn’t specified, but look at a map. It won’t be Hobart.

Just south of Darwin the US is installing a fuel farm planned by September 2023 to hold over 300 million litres of military jet fuel. Although the government is reluctant to say what is in prospect, it’s obvious the Americans are going to be here in much larger numbers soon.

This all points to a need for a radical rethink about Darwin’s role in the defence of Australia and what we need to do to rebuild our threadbare military infrastructure across the north. The PLA threat is pushing south, and we need a response to it.

I understand the prime minister doesn’t want a new defence white paper or a national security strategy. There’s a view that written policies constrain freewheeling decision-making. So be it, but something must be done to instil a disciplined focus around Defence’s strategic planning, jolting it away from its fantasies about the late 2030s and towards the tough realities of today.

When there’s no time left to change the structure of the military, the need is to look instead at force posture

New Darwin port could help replace USA Pearl Harbour naval facility

Experts say a new port could replace the USA military’s main fuelling station in the Pacific region after the closure of a storage facility at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

The federal budget allocated $1.5 billion to build “new port infrastructure, such as a wharf, an offloading facility and dredging of the shipping channel” in the Northern Territory.

Infrastructure Department Secretary Simon Atkinson told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday the new port would be built at Middle Arm in Darwin Harbour.

The government has been in discussion with Defence officials for five months, the hearing was told, and the new port would be open to naval ships as well as private industry for minerals exports and energy exports.

Australian National University professor of defence studies, John Blaxland, said the USA would “no doubt” be looking to locations such as Darwin to bolster its fuel storage.

“It’s not unreasonable to say that additional facilities in and around Darwin will be dual-roled, they will be available for use by US forces,” Professor Blaxland said.

“Darwin is a frequently visited port for US warships transiting from East Coast USA to the Middle East, through the Pacific, across the Indian Ocean, as well as visits from the Seventh Fleet based in Japan.”

The USA military’s massive Red Hill facility, which stored 950 million litre of fuel in underground tanks, was closed down earlier this month due to groundwater contamination.

US should station a new First Fleet on our northern coast

The Department of Defence has been busy denying that it may develop a naval port at Glyde Point, 40km northeast of Darwin. It doesn’t deny that the territory government may be encouraged to build one itself. Wink, wink.

If Australia is keen to ensure that the US remains engaged in the region (and dedicated to Australia’s defence), nothing says commitment like infrastructure.

The most attractive feature of building a naval port at Glyde Point may be its future use by the RAN itself. China has announced plans to build a “fishery industrial park” at Daru on the south coast of Papua New Guinea. With no fish in the water but Australia within sight, the planned facility presumably is aimed at threatening the Torres Strait.

"no American ally is potentially more important than"

No plans for Darwin port

It’s history now that the then-US president Barack Obama was shocked in 2015 to read that the Northern Territory’s Country Liberal Party government had awarded a Chinese company — with alleged links to the People’s Liberation Army — a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin, in a $506m deal.

The ABC reported in June 2019, citing “multiple officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity”, that “secret planning” had begun for a new port facility just outside Darwin, which could eventually help US Marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific.

In July this year, a Northern Territory government report on developing Gunn Point, just west of Glyde Point, contained a tantalising reference to a possible port.

However, the report’s author — the NT Planning Commission — stated on its website that “there are no current plans for Defence infrastructure within the Gunn Point Peninsula”.

so I guess that means there may be Defence infrastructure within the Gunn Point Peninsula?