Port Hedland, WA

The Port of Port Hedland is the worlds largest bulk export port.

The Port of Port Hedland, photo from Pilbara Ports Authority website

From Eighty Mile Beach we stopped over in Port Hedland for two nights to restock and get a car tyre replaced.

Staying at Black Rock Tourist Park was a very different experience to our last visit when we were dealing with hospital admissions and me being very unwell (see our Karijini blog from 2019). This time we could enjoy the shady, spacious sites, friendly staff, amazing laundry facilities and Hedland Trattoria. The best pizza ever and they serve breakfast from 4.30am – 7am. Being a mining and port town there are a lot of FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) workers, which we assume the early starts and amazing laundries are for. I don’t usually mention laundry facilities but these definitely need a mention. There are two at Black Rock Tourist Park, both in shipping containers (as is Hedland Trattoria). Each one is big, clean, has about 10 washing machines and 10 dryers. But the best thing is ‘no coins’ are necessary. They all use Apple Pay, really easy to use. I put on two loads just for the novelty of it.

While I was revelling in the joys of my first Apple Pay laundry, Tim was off having his own, equally jolly adventure at the Pilbara Boats n Bikes. Don’t let the name fool you. Boats and bikes are but the tip of the iceberg to what this little Aladdin’s Cave has to offer. Mowers, an assortment of other gardening equipment, motor bikes, generators, beach buggies, caravans, and entire room of every conceivable caravan part one could need. They service equipment, sell second hand equipment, and the list goes on. Oddly they don’t mention on their website anything about stocking caravan parts and accessories, and it doesn’t come up with a Google search for caravan parts and accessories. So for our fellow caravaners, if you find yourself in Port Hedland keep it in mind. We purchased a spare door lock barrel after our recent diversion to Broome to have ours repaired.

Port Hedland Seafarers

Port Hedland is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Our major export commodity is iron ore, followed by Spodumene (Lithium), Copper concentrate, salt and manganese. …Port Hedland is the world’s largest bulk minerals export port, and Australia’s largest port based on total annual tonnes throughput”. (Port Hedland Seafarers website)

The Port Hedland Peace Memorial Seafarers Centre is one of over 300 centres worldwide and 28 within Australia, providing pastoral care, services and support for seafaring people. It is run by the Anglican Church and provides some essential services to crew from ships that port there. Services such as making doctor and dental appointments for crew as well as transporting to and from and paying for the treatment, transporting them to supermarkets to purchase their toiletries, snacks etc., giving them access to fast Internet so they can FaceTime with family who they often have not seen for the best part of year, temporary accomodation while they await their transport out, and people to talk to if they are struggling aboard with things like depression, bullying etc. The crew get paid about Aus$180 a week, which usually goes back to support their families. It was such an eye opener to hear how the crew of these large bulk carriers live and the hardships they have to deal with. Sadly suicide is very common. Most of the Seafarers staff are volunteers and money raised from the tours goes to funding the service.

We also learnt about how the port works, the way the bulk carriers are unloaded and loaded, move around the port, about the tunnel that runs from under one side of the port to the other with a conveyer belt carrying the iron ore for loading. We would definitely recommend the tour.

The vessel we went out on was one of the Hedland Launch Service vessels, which also ferries crew to and from their ships.

The square yellow pads are magnetic and attach to the side of the ship to hold it in place while loading, instead of ropes.

The ship below, the Mount Tourmaline, is the worlds first LNG gas fuelled bulk carrier. ‘BHP, the largest Australian mining company, has marked the delivery of the first of five bulk carriers that will be powered by liquefied gas instead of highly polluting bunker fuel to transport shipments of iron ore from the Pilbara to Asia… Introducing LNG-powered ships would eliminate NOx (nitrogen oxide) and SOx (sulphur oxide) emissions, and sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to BHP’ Sydney Morning Herald January 2022.

Five tug boats turn the ships around in the port prior to loading. They push against the ships as well as pull them.

For the crew to board their ships, the launch vessel comes along side near the ladder that hangs down. It is several stories high and both vessels are constantly moving as they do this.

The ladder for crew to board

The crew have to JUMP from the launch vessel onto the bottom of the ladder. Timing is important, especially as they had luggage in their hands as they did this. They not only have to be fit but not afraid of heights either.

This was a calm day on the water, It must be quite difficult on a rough day.

Crew re-boarding their ship

Cheers til next time

Helen and Tim