Portland is on the western coast of Victoria; it is the only major port between Melbourne and Adelaide. Population is 9,716 (2006 census). Location is 38° 20'S, 141° 36'E. Average maximum temperature is 18 degrees Celsius and average minimum is 10 degrees Celsius. Average annual rainfall is 829 millimetres.
In the early 1800s whalers and sealers were operating along the coast and at least one, William Dutton, is known to have lived on the bay. But the arrival of Edward Henty from Tasmania in 1834 is the basis of Portland's claims to be the first settlement in Victoria because he was a permanent settler. Henty built a house for his family and began farming in the region which had not then been officially opened for settlement. The landing he established in Portland Bay grew into the village of Portland. The township was surveyed in 1839 and the post office opened in 1841.
The town of Portland faces Portland Bay which provides little shelter against weather from the sea. A section of the south-west corner of the bay has been enclosed by breakwaters forming the harbour with an eastern breakwater providing protecting from weather coming in from Bass Strait. Nearly all maritime activity at Portland takes place inside the breakwaters.
Before the railway line reached Portland in 1870 coastal shipping was an important means of transporting people and freight within Victoria; coastal shipping travelled regularly from Portland to Melbourne and other coastal towns. Portland was also the port for a large agricultural hinterland and was important to the wool industry for a time until Geelong became the preferred wool export port.
By 1846 a pier was in use at Portland and this was replaced by a pier into deeper water in 1857 but large ships could not come alongside and had to anchor offshore while smaller lighters transferred goods and passengers. Another pier built in 1901 was into water deep enough for large vessels to come alongside but the port remained exposed to the sea. The Port of Portland was opened in its present form in 1960. Now substantial breakwaters protect five berths, including the aluminium smelter berth, capable of handling a variety of ocean-going ships. Two tugs (Cape Nelson and Cape Grant) based at Portland assist ships in the port.
|A bulk carrier loading wood chips from the pile on the wharf at the port of Portland.|
Export trade includes softwood and hardwood chips, logs, livestock and aluminium ingots; wood chips is the largest single category. Mineral sand is expected to be an added export items with processing facilities coming into service at Horsham and Hamilton. Import commodities are alumina, liquid pitch (both for the smelter) and fertiliser products. Grain exports have been suspended for two years because of low crop levels but in early March 2010 a ship loaded with canola sailed for Pakistan.
The port has five shipping berths including the smelter berth which is designed to unload alumina and other deliveries for the aluminium smelter. The other four berths are variously equipped to handle grain, breakbulk cargoes, bulk liquid discharge, fertiliser, wood chips, logs, livestock and mineral sand. The heavy duty berth can handle container and quarter ramp roll-on roll-off traffic.
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The Port of Portland is the port for the Green Triangle spanning the border region of south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia from Mt Gambier to Warrnambool and inland to north of Horsham. This is one of Australia's major forest region with extensive softwood and hardwood plantations and the Port of Portland confidently expects that wood chip exports volume will increase substantially in future.
The Portland Wind Energy Project, (Pacific Hydro) involves four wind farms at Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson, Cape Sir William Grant and Yambuk. Stage 1, at Yambuk, containing 20 NEG Micon windmills generating 1.5 megawatts each became operational in January 2007. Stages 2 and 3, at Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson South, contain 29 and 22 REpower windmills respectively; each windmill generating 2 megawatts is 82 metres in diameter mounted on a 69 metres high tower. Stage 2 became operational in November 2008 and Stage 3 in May 2009. Stage 4, planned for Cape Nelson North and Cape Sir William Grant, will contain 27 or more windmills on towers of different heights.
Vestas Australia Wind Technology opened a blade manufacturing factory in Portland in 2005 but the factory was closed in 2008 as Vestas assessed the Australian market as unviable. Towers were built and erected by Keppel Prince Engineering.
Windmills are distributed haphazardly over the windmill farm site. At Cape Nelson and Cape Bridgewater some towers are close to the road or car park and there is no need for a viewing platform such as that at Yambuk.
|Wind farm at Cape Bridgewater.|
A 1,400 metre deep bore in the town produced naturally hot water (58°C) at the rate of 90 litres per second to heat municipal buildings, a motel and the town swimming pool. The bore was commissioned in 1983 but closed down in 2006 after problems with the bore casing. Gas-fired water heaters were commissioned as replacements.
Present-day Portland is dominated by the Alcoa Aluminium smelter on the edge of the town. The smelter was opened in 1987 processing alumina bought from Western Australia by ship. Most output goes to South-East Asia, especially Japan and Korea, through the Port of Portland or by road to Geelong and Melbourne when customers prefer that delivery route. The Portland smelter is Australia's third largest aluminium smelter with a capacity of about 358,000 tonnes of aluminium per annum. Aluminium is Victoria's largest export (7% of the total).
Electricity for the smelter comes from Loy Yang in the Latrobe Valley; having Alcoa as a customer was a crucial factor in the decision to construct this power station. Two 500,000 volt transmission lines carry electricity from the Latrobe Valley to Portland. Recently, a contact was signed for electricity to be supplied until 2036.
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Alumina from Western Australia is carried in a special-purpose ship MV Portland (23,262 gross registered tons) using a dedicated berth in the Port of Portland fitted with a Vacuum Ship Unloader (VSU) which sucks alumina (a fine white powder) out of the ship and onto a conveyor belt running 4.5 kilometres to the smelter. The same berth is used to unload petroleum coke and aluminium fluoride used in the smelting process.
The smelter employs about 600 people directly and another 200 contractors work on the site providing specialised services. During warmer months Alcoa provides free guided tours of the smelter; tours leave the Information Centre.
Fishing has been an important activity since sealing and whaling were widespread before Portland was settled. After the railway line reached the town in 1870 fishing developed further and fish was sent by train to inland towns. Fish caught included barracouta, sharks, rock lobster and Australian salmon. The South Australian Fishermen's Cooperative (SAFCOL) operated a tuna cannery in the 1960s.
Now Portland based vessels fish for rock lobster, king crabs and abalone. Trawlers towing nets at depths of 180 to 800 metres take Blue Grenadier, Ling, Blue Eye Trevalla, Trevally, Orange Roughy and other fin-fish. About 7,000 tonnes is despatched to the Melbourne Fish Markets each year. Squid-jiggers operate from March to June each year, fishing at night using very bright lights on deck to cast a heavy shadow under the vessel which attracts squid caught on jigging machines with lines over the side. A few boats use drop-line fishing and mesh netting.
The Southern blue-fin tuna season runs from April to mid-July. Fish exceeding 80 kilograms are taken in 100 to 140 metres of water by serious amateurs.
|Trawlers alongside in the fishing wharf.|
Defending Portland against attack from the sea was an occasional concern of the Victorian Colonial government which eventually built a single battery containing an 80-pounder rifled muzzle loading cannon on a wrought iron trainable carriage in a concrete emplacement. This gun and emplacement are still in place. The reason why Portland received a single 80-pounder gun while Port Fairy and Warrnambool each had two 80-pounders is not known.
The 80-pounder gun replaced two 68-pounder smooth bore cannon. One of these is alongside the battery mounted on a timber carriage; the other is on the grass outside the town hall on a cut-down timber carriage.
A third gun at the Portland battery is a 32-pounder smooth bore cannon on a timber carriage. The nearby sign advises this gun was obsolete when it arrived at Portland in 1867 from Melbourne; it was used for training members of the volunteer artillery.
|The town of Portland is dominated by the breakwaters and the port. Nearly all water-based activity in Portland takes place inside those breakwaters and visitors can see a full range of activity from the town. These include a bulk carrier being berthed by tugs at the commercial port, an ocean-going yacht under sail entering the breakwater entrance, recreational fishermen launching their runabouts at the launching ramp, and fur seals hanging about the fish cleaning tables in the hope of scraps being thrown their way.|
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Wharves for ocean-going ships on the far side of the harbour are clearly visible from the town area. Near the commercial port is Fishermans Wharf where large trawlers are secured; smaller crayboats and other fishing vessels lie alongside the canal connecting the harbour and a nearby wildlife reserve. Against the northern breakwater (the Lees Breakwater 1179 metres long) Portland's two tug boats are based.
The Maritime Discovery Centre (the Information Centre) is in the north-west corner of the harbour beside a large land-fill area very suitable for parking caravans and tow-vehicles while collecting information.
The area used by recreational fishermen is along the landward side of the harbour at the foot of a grassed slope down from the shopping streets. Here are boat launching ramps, fish-cleaning tables, wharves where charter boats embark hopeful fishermen, fur seals waiting for fish scraps, and parked boat trailers. Boat-trailer parking bays are insufficient during busy weeks and dozens of trailers are parked on the grass at important fishing times such as when the tuna are migrating past Portland Bay.
The large pile of wood chips in the port area confirms the importance of wood chip exports to the town. When the wind is blowing in the right direction the smell of wood chips reaches the foreshore near the shopping area.
The shopping streets exhibit a variety of architectural styles from small nineteenth century, single frontage places to modern IGA and Woolworths/Safeway stores.
Nearby Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson offer interesting coastal walking tracks and scenery as well as close encounters with windmills.
¶ 'Port of Portland" at www.portofportland.com.au - accessed on 27 April 2010
¶ "Celebrating 20 Years in the Community" 2006, at http://www.alcoa.com/australia/en/pdf/PA_20_years_newspaper.pdf - accessed 8 May 2010.
¶ "Portland" by Seafood Industry Victoria at http://www.siv.com.au/portland.htm- accessed on 12 May 2010
¶ Portland Bait and Tackle, Professional Fishing - at http://www.wildblue.com.au accessed on 12 May 2010.
¶ Portland Wind Energy Project (PWEP) - at http://www.pacifichydro.com.au/ accessed on 12 May 2010.
¶ Towns in Time (census data) - at http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/ - accessed on 11 May 2010.