|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Early History to 1851
Port Phillip had been surveyed and charted, basic ports and harbour facilities installed, and the first bay pilot licensed between 1836 and 1839. Under Superintendent La Trobe a Harbour Master, C.M. Lewis, was appointed, more permanent navigation aids installed (the first lights being built at Point Gellibrand in 1840 and Queenscliff between 1841 and 1843), wharf facilities improved and additional pilots appointed.
Role of Department of Trade and Customs 1851 to 1900
From the beginning of the Department of Trade and Customs (VA 606) in 1851 a number of functions were consistently grouped together administratively and this grouping subsequently became identified as the Ports and Harbours Branch of the Department. The Ports and Harbours Branch was responsible for:
control of vessel movements into and out of Victorian ports
regulation of loading and discharging of goods including the collection of wharfage rates
provision of pilot services
construction and maintenance of Government marine vessels
maintenance of navigational aids and operation of lighthouses, lightships and signal stations
provision of emergency services along the Victorian coast
In 1877 responsibility for ports and harbours functions within the Port of Melbourne was assumed by the newly-established Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners (VA 2799).
Prior to 1900 the Public Works Department exercised some responsibility for harbour and river improvements, including the development of dock accommodation and pier construction, and also for dredging operations not within the jurisdiction of the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners (VA 2799).
It is evident that dredging operations were undertaken at coastal ports and harbours as well as on inland waterways. By 1910 the section of the Public Works Department responsible for dredging and snagging operations had been incorporated into the Ports and Harbours Division.
Transfer to Public Works Department 1900
In 1900, prior to the abolition of Department of Trade and Customs and the transfer of its key functions of the Commonwealth, the Ports and Harbours Branch of that Department was transferred to the Public Works Department. The key functions associated with the Ports and Harbours Branch at this time were:
regulation of shipping and provision of pilots at Victorian ports other than the Port of Melbourne
maintenance of buoys and beacons and other navigational aids not within the Port of Melbourne
provision of lighthouses and lightships
provision of emergency services along the Victorian coast
By 1902 marine surveying was also part of the Ports and Harbours functions.
Responsibility for Lighthouses and Navigational Aids Split 1915
On its establishment in 1901 the Commonwealth was authorised to make laws with respect to lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys. The federal Lighthouses Act 1911 gave the Commonwealth power to enter into an agreement with the Governor of any State for the acquisition of lighthouses and marine marks, and to erect or alter such navigational aids as required. On 1 July 1915 the Commonwealth took over responsibility for the lighting of the coastal shipping tracks between the various ports (ie. highway lighting used by ships proceeding from one port to another). The States retained control over the lights and navigational aids established in ports, harbours and rivers (ie. for the use of vessels entering or leaving ports).
Port of Melbourne
Establishment of Melbourne Harbour Trust
The Melbourne Harbour Trust Act 40 Vict., No.5523 (1876) which became effective on 1 January 1877, provided for the establishment of a statutory body to be known as the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners. The Act provided for the appointment of fifteen Commissioners representing various interests in the Port. The first election and appointment of Commissioners occurred on 30 March 1877, followed by a meeting on 11 April 1877 at which office bearers were elected.
The long title of the establishing Act states as its purpose,
"to provide for the Regulation, Management and Improvement of the Port of Melbourne and certain portions of the River Yarra Yarra and certain portions of the Saltwater River...."
and thus identifies the key responsibilities vested in the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners, which in more specific terms included the following major functions:
Regulation of the trade of the port with respect to such matters as
landing and shipping of merchandise
arrivals and departures of vessels
Management of port facilities such as wharves, piers, jetties, docks, ships, lights, buoys, beacons, moorings, tugs, workshops, water police, emergency services, and land adjacent to the port's waterways
Improvements to the port including
widening and deepening the port's waterways
construction and maintenance of wharfage accommodation, docks and other port facilities as mentioned above
regular dredging operations
control of noxious trades and deposits of refuse within the port boundary
co-ordination of the above functions to ensure the efficient operation of all port activities.
Prior to the establishment of the Trust there had been no co-ordinated management and development of the Port of Melbourne.
On 14 November 1883 two additional Commissioners were appointed under provisions of the Melbourne Harbour Trust Act Further Amendment Act 47 Vic., No.763 1883.
Until 1900 the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners was responsible to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs (VRG 22) and thereafter to the Minister for Public Works (VRG 28).
A major reconstitution of the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners occurred in 1913. Under the Melbourne Harbour Trust Act 1913 (No.2449) the body of seventeen elected Commissioners was replaced by five Commissioners appointed by the Governor-in-Council.
The five Commissioners included a full-time Chairman and four representatives of the following : owners of ships, exporters, importers and primary producers. The first meeting of the new body occurred on 4 February 1913. Under the provisions of the Melbourne Harbour Trust Act 1913 , responsibility for the railway piers at Port Melbourne and Williamstown were also vested in the Commissioners with effect from 1 December 1913. This brought all wharves, piers and jetties within the Port of Melbourne under the authority.
Establishment of Port of Melbourne Authority
Under the Port of Melbourne Authority Act 1978 the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners was reconstituted as the Port of Melbourne Authority (VA 1426), with effect from 8 November 1978. The reconstitution did not reflect a change in functions, but rather represented an attempt to follow modern practice with respect to the naming of organisations responsible for the operation of ports throughout the world. the Port of Melbourne Authority has been registered as a separate agency (see VA 1426).
The Port of Melbourne (World Trade Centre) Act 1978 (No.9221), which came into operation on 19 December 1978, vested the Port of Melbourne Authority with authority to construct, maintain and operate a World Trade Centre in the Port of Melbourne.
Development after 1978
A statutory body, the Port of Melbourne Authority was responsible to the Minister of Public Works (VRG 28) until 1 July 1983 when overall responsibility for maritime activities, including the functions of the Authority, was transferred to the Minister of Transport (VRG 49).
On 1 October 1986 the Ports and Harbours Division of the Ministry of Transport was integrated with Victoria's three port Authorities. Hence the Port of Melbourne Authority assumed responsibility for the administration and operation of all ports in eastern Victoria including : Port of Western Port, Port of Anderson's Inlet, Port of Corner Inlet and Port Albert, Port of Gippsland Lakes, Port of Snowy River, and Port of Mallacoota.
In addition, responsibility was assumed for various port and marine related services, including:
the maintenance and upgrading of navigational aids in all Victorian coastal waters
oil pollution control in all Victorian coastal waters
hydrographic surveying of Victorian ports and coastline
beach renourishment, and the maintenance of recreational boating facilities provided by the Government, along Victoria's eastern coast.
Responsibility for port facilities and activities along Victoria's western coast were divided between the Port of Portland Authority (VA 1427) and the Port of Geelong Authority (VA 1425).
Developments during the 1990s
Under the Port Services Act 1995 the Port of Melbourne Authority was divided into three sections.
- Victorian Channels Authority responsible for the environment, for the movement of shipping including harbour control, dredging and the provision of navigation aids.
- Melbourne Port Corporation established as a State Government Business 1996 functioning as the landlord of the Port of Melbourne being responsible for the strategic planning of the port and the operation of common user facilities.
- Melbourne Port Services, privatised and sold in 1996 to Skilled Engineering Ltd. As Skilled Maritime Services.
Eastern Victorian ports are managed separately and the Hastings Port (Holding) Corporation (VA 4264) was established by the Port Services (Amendment) Act 1997 to carry out certain functions in relation to the Port of Hastings.
Port of Geelong
In 1905 responsibility for port and marine services at the Port of Geelong was transferred to the newly established Geelong Harbour Trust. The Geelong Harbour Trust was reconstituted as the Port of Geelong Authority under the Port of Geelong Authority Act 1981 (No.9658). The PGA was responsible for the management and regulation of activities at the port at Geelong and within Corio Bay and the outer harbour of Geelong. In addition, the Authority was responsible for the associated ports at Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, Lorne and Apollo Bay.
The Port of Geelong Authority was abolished on 10 Dec. 1997. The commercial functions of the PGA were transferred to TNT Ports Ltd on 1 July 1996.
Residual functions were transferred to other agencies including the Department of Natural Resources & Environment (DNRE), the City of Greater Geelong (CGG), Victorian Channels Authority (VCA), and Parks Victoria (PV).
The Office of the Administrator assumed responsibility for the administration of the residual rights and obligations of the corporate structure of the Port of Geelong Authority.
Warrnambool and Portland
Responsibility for management of the Warrnambool harbour, including the control of shipping and port facilities and the general preservation and improvement of the port, was assumed by the Warrnambool Harbour Board (VA 2836) upon its establishment in 1928. When the Board was abolished in 1936 responsibility was formally resumed by the Ports and Harbours Branch.
In 1951 a Portland Harbour Trust was established assuming responsibility from the Ports and Harbours Branch for the management and control, general preservation and improvement of the Port of Portland. The Portland Harbour Trust was reconstituted as the Port of Portland Authority on 13 January 1982 under the Port of Portland Authority Act 1981 (No.9635). The Port of Portland Authority was abolished on 10 Dec. 1997.
The Office of the Administrator assumed responsibility for the administration of the residual rights and obligations of the corporate structure of the Port of Portland Authority.