Business bulletin: 30 January 2020

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Group shot of last years delegation to the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston

Northern Territory (NT) businesses have a golden opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities at the world’s largest oil and gas conference.

The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) is being staged in Houston, Texas, in May.

American Chamber of Commerce leads about 20 Australian companies, including several from the NT, to the annual gathering.

The conference attracts about 65,000 delegates and has an exhibition space of more than 500,000 square feet - more than twice the size of the MCG.

About 50 Australian companies have opened offices in Houston after attending the conference.

“It’s the place to be for Territory business,” says Penelope Williamson, WA / NT General Manager of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia. “It has real value for our delegates.”

She says the conference is a golden opportunity for business owners to meet the world’s leading providers of products and services under one roof; develop markets and business partnerships; visit the industry’s largest equipment exhibition; and see ground breaking innovations and technology.

Ms Williamson has led 542 Australian delegates to the annual conference over the past 20 years - and that has led to $1 billion worth of contracts.

“We’re interested in people who want to invest in Australasia. All delegates need to decide who they want to connect with in Houston.

INPEX, whose Ichthys LNG operation in Darwin will contribute billions of dollars to the Australian economy over its 40‑year lifespan, has been a major sponsor of the American Chamber of Commerce Australian trade delegation to Houston for the past eight years.

The global oil and gas corporation has enabled 11 Territory businesses to attend the conference.

“INPEX is committed to strengthening the capacity of Territory businesses,” says Bill Townsend, INPEX Deputy Vice President, Corporate Coordination, who also serves as the Chairman of AmCham in WA and the NT.

“Supporting the AmCham OTC trade mission is one of the ways we do this.

“The AmCham OTC trade delegation provides local companies with exposure to the global oil and gas supply chain through business development leads and contacts they otherwise may not have access to.”

The 11 NT-based businesses INPEX has sponsored to go to Houston in previous years are Hydraulink / KM Engineering, Fingers Specialised Metal Fabrication, Combined Communication Solutions, Security and Technology Services, NT Welding, MMC Australia, ECB Training Services, Redline Plumbing, Johnny Cool Darwin, Fire and Safety Australia and Callidus.

There are 30 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves in the Timor Sea yet to be developed and 500‑plus trillion cubic feet of ‘gas-in-place’ in the onshore Beetaloo sub-basin alone.

The Territory Government has developed the Northern Territory Gas Strategy to transform the NT into a world-class gas production, manufacturing and services hub by 2030.

The strategy promotes the creation of a gas‑based processing and manufacturing hub in Darwin Harbour, and includes a plan to support Territory businesses to grow the local service and supply industry.

With expansion opportunities in liquefied natural gas, development of proven offshore gas reserves and highly prospective onshore gas resources, the next decade is one of opportunity for NT service and supply businesses.

The AmCham delegation to Houston provides an ideal platform for NT service and supply businesses to position themselves for the coming decade of opportunity, to connect with potential business partners and to promote the competitive advantages of location and local knowledge that only NT businesses can deliver.

Businesses can access support to attend the conference under the NT Government’s Trade Support Scheme.

For details, go to the Northern Territory Government website or contact Sean Reddan, Principal Industry Development Officer at sean.reddan@nt.gov.au or phone 08 8946 9502.

To attend the conference, contact Ms Williamson at penelopewilliamson@amcham.com.au or phone 08 9325 9540 / 0419 962 403.

Aerial view of work at Bynoe Point

Seafarms’ Project Sea Dragon continues to move forward with construction commencing at the Bynoe Harbour Core Breeding Centre.

Territory company Allan King and Sons Construction were awarded contracts for early works on the project including earthworks and bitumen being laid across the roads along with outlet ponds and fencing.

Contracts worth $200 million are anticipated to be released by Seafarms for Northern Territory (NT) businesses to tender for this year, through the NT’s Industry Capability Network (NTICN) project gateway.

Project Sea Dragon is a $1.45 billion prawn aquaculture project which will ultimately see the development of up to 10,000ha of ponds for black tiger prawn production facilities.

In the last year, Seafarms has invested $5.6 million in to the Territory. Works at Bynoe Point, totalling $1.4 million, have been awarded to 100% owned and operated NT businesses.

Last week, Project Sea Dragon took another positive step forward with the signing of an offtake agreement with major European seafood distributor Primstar B.V.

Under the agreement Primstar will market black tiger prawns from the Project Sea Dragon development to European markets.

This offtake agreement will assist Seafarms to progress Project Sea Dragon’s development, funding and construction plans as it moves to implement the project.

At full scale, the project has the potential to create around 1,500 ongoing jobs, of which around 1,000 will be located in the NT (700 at Legune Station and 300 at a Darwin-based hatchery and breeding facilities, along with the main office in Darwin).

Stage 1 of the Project Sea Dragon Facility is to consist of 1,180ha of land‐based production ponds and 324ha of internal recycling ponds at Legune Station, 110km north east of Kununurra.

Large Barramundi

The company with one of the most distinctive names in the world is well on its way to achieving a great ambition: to make it possible for every Australian to eat fresh barramundi every day.

Humpty Doo Barramundi Farm is doubling production to more than 6,000 tonnes a year as the first part of a $58 million expansion.

It is now the largest barramundi farm in Australia.

Stage 1 of the expansion program includes:

  • expanding pond grow-out facilities to increase the supply of Australian saltwater barramundi
  • a nursery to ensure care for the fish to a larger size, reducing losses from cannibalism and predation, and
  • equipment for more efficient ice production, improved fish handling and improved quality of premium saltwater barramundi supplied to the market.

Future stages of the project will include building a solar generation plant to reduce reliance on natural gas and become carbon neutral during daytime operations; building the NT’s first automatic aquaculture feed system, which will deliver feed to fish free‑ranging in the ponds; reducing the use of trucks to transport feed around the farm; extending fish‑care infrastructure; and exploring market growth opportunities.

The award‑winning NT family‑owned business, which has world‑class accreditation for cleanliness, sustainability and environmental protection, took out a $7.8 million loan from the North Australia Infrastructure Fund and a matching loan from the ANZ Bank to complete the first phase of the expansion.

Staff have increased from 50 to nearly 100 over the past two years.

And the expansion has created employment for a further 180 people in associated industries, such as trades, logistics and construction. Many of these are small Territory family-owned businesses.

Chief executive and co-owner Dan Richards says there were only four workers when he joined the business full-time 12 years ago.

“So it has been exciting to be part of this growth journey.”

He says the new nursery will enable the farm to take even better care of its fish.

The company was started nearly 30 years ago by Dan’s father, Bob Richards, a strong believer in ethical business practices.

“Dad has instilled in us a strong sense of ethics and values,” Dan says. “We don’t trample people around us. We believe in working with other Territorians to create opportunities for us all.

“After all, this is our home. My kids are fifth-generation Territorians.”

The company invests in training local workers.

“We’re trying to build a skilled local workforce,” says Dan.

The company is conservatively estimated to contribute about $10 million a year to the Northern Territory economy.

The Richards are striving to make Australia more self-sufficient in fish; at the moment, 70% of our seafood is imported.

Fish from Humpty Doo Barramundi can be on the plate in a Sydney restaurant within three days of being taken out of the salt water in the NT.

Farmed barra has a high oil content – and it’s the oil that is good for you – which makes it easy to cook.

Bob Richards is in his seventies and is stepping back from the operations of the farm, but is still a big part of the strategic direction of the business.

“We believe we can do a lot of good with our Territory community and grow a beautiful fish at the same time,” he says.

Aerial view of Darwin City

There has been a great response to the second Northern Territory Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA II) from local businesses in its first year.

Territory businesses sought to fill 520 positions with skilled migrants in 2019, almost equalling the 573 positions sought for the entire four years of the first DAMA.

DAMA II, a bilateral agreement between the Northern Territory and Australian governments, came into effect on 1 January 2019 with the inclusion of a pathway to permanent residency.

The inclusion of the pathway to permanent residence in DAMA II has supported Territory businesses to fill job shortages with skilled international migrants and keep workers in the Territory long term.

Employers who apply to fill positions with overseas nationals must first demonstrate they have been unable to fill the position locally.

So far, 52 local businesses have been endorsed by MigrationNT and have entered into labour agreements with the Department of Home Affairs. These businesses can now hire overseas workers in positions they have not been able to fill by Australians.

A further 35 businesses have received endorsement from MigrationNT and are working with Home Affairs in finalising labour agreements.

The new agreement identifies 117 shortage occupations, which employers can apply to fill with skilled international workers. View the full list of occupations included in the agreement.

Businesses can access the NT DAMA if they are actively operating in the NT and:

  • are viable and have been operating for at least 12 months
  • have no history of not meeting its obligations to employees
  • are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one of the occupations on the NT DAMA list
  • can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.

For more information view the NT Designated Area Migration Agreement.

Example of the NT Seniors Recognition Scheme prepaid card

The Northern Territory Seniors Recognition Scheme (NTSRS) has introduced changes to make it easier for members to use their annual $500 payment by introducing a new NTSRS prepaid card.

Businesses with an EFTPOS terminal that provide travel, accommodation and fuel services can accept the prepaid card. Members can also use the card to make payments on their electricity and water accounts.

Territory businesses that provide the above services can begin preparing their employees and their premises to accept the prepaid card by requesting an information pack from the NT Concessions website. The pack includes a window sticker, in-store poster to display and factsheets.

Businesses can automatically accept the card if they are registered in an approved merchant category code for travel, accommodation and fuel distribution. You can check the list of approved merchant category on the NT Concessions website.

Businesses who aren’t registered under these approved merchant category codes but who provide the approved goods and services, can apply online to accept the prepaid cards.

The prepaid card is available now for new members and those who are yet to use their $500 payment for the 2019-20 financial year.

From 1 July 2020 the prepaid card will be available to all NT Seniors Recognition Scheme members to use in the 2020-2021 financial year.

Last updated: 30 January 2020

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