Wilmar loco driver injured in shunting incident

A Wilmar sugar employee has been airlifted to Mackay Base Hospital following a shunting incident that occurred near Camila over the weekend.

The incident involving the Plane Creek locomotive driver occurred around 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon at West Hill siding, near Camila.https://922b5ce8235579fb30955ef6ae83bc28.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

A Wilmar sugar spokesperson said the driver was collecting a rake full of cane bins when he became trapped between the locomotive and a cane bin. It has been confirmed that he was not participating in a training activity when the incident occurred.

The man was then airlifted to the Mackay Base Hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment for his injuries. It is established that he is in a stable condition.

Wilmar have been in contact with the employees family, and are currently working closely with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland in relation to Saturdays incident.

No further details have been provided at this time.

Crushing season has commenced throughout Wilmar milling regions

Wilmar have announced that the 2021 season is well underway across all four of their milling regions with growers feeling optimistic about buoyant cane prices.

Wilmar Sugar, Australia’s largest raw sugar manufacturer, operates a total of eight mills throughout the Burdekin, Sarina, Proserpine and Herbert regions.

Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said the growing season had been variable so far, but things were looking positive.

“It’s been the most variable growing season I’ve witnessed with huge rain in the north, and drought conditions in the south, but the good news is that sugar prices are hitting $500 per tonne and we are feeling energised about our industry.”

While this is no industry record, canegrowers have welcomed the recent price rise with a renewed sense of optimism. The increase comes as world sugar prices begin to climb due to global supply issues.

This years total crop estimate for the Wilmar group is 15.29 million tonnes, slightly up on last years total throughput of 14.93 million tonnes.

The factories have currently processed about ten per cent of the total estimated crop, with the only draw backs so far being attributed to wet weather.

The Burdekin Mills were the first to kick off the season on June 8, followed closely by Plane Creek on June 15, and the Herbert on June 18, with Proserpine bringing up the tail on July 1.

The Burdekin Mills have so far processed 1.16 million tonnes of sugar cane with yield, weekly throughput and Commercial Cane Sugar all sitting above budget.

Plane Creek Mill at Sarina performed well in the first few weeks of crushing, processing 9.3 per cent of the regions total estimated crop. CCS levels are showing an encouraging upward trend.

Wet weather slowed things down for a short period of time at the Herbert mills, although things are back on track with the mills having processed 5.3 pc of the regions total estimated crop so far. CCS levels are also looking encouraging.

Proserpine finally got under way following some minor start up issues, with harvester drivers now making good tracks, receiving little impact from weather. They have processed 0.1pc of the regions total estimated crop, with CCS levels remaining comparable to the first week of the previous season.

Watch out for cane trains this harvesting season

Bundaberg Sugar is warning motorists that cane trains will have an increasing presence across the region in the lead up to the 2021 cane harvesting season, scheduled to commence on 20 June.

Bundaberg Sugar’s Cane Supply Manager Matt Curtis said it was important for motorists and other members of the public to understand the cane harvesting season brings with it plenty of cane train movement across the company’s rail network.

“Our trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from June to December,” he said.

“Each year our drivers experience near miss incidents where motorists try to race the trains at level crossings or where motorists are unaware of train activity.

“Motorists should not be fooled by the speed of a cane train and must realise that it can’t stop quickly.”

Mr Curtis said a dully loaded cane train could weigh in excess of 400 tonnes and takes more than a kilometre to stop.

“The seasonal nature of train operations makes it easy for motorists to become complacent, so we are urging all road users to be aware and alert to trains,” he said.

“Bundaberg Sugar’s cane rail network plays a significant role in transporting the harvested cane to the sugar mill.

Cane train season
Cane harvesting season is about to begin and motorists are being warned to keep an eye out for cane trains in the region.

“People need to obey the road rules and drive to the conditions.”

Bundaberg Sugar follows a risk assessment process for crossings using the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM). This system is used to identify key potential risks at level crossings and is managed nationally to ensure a standard approach to design across Australia and New Zealand.

Crossings include active and passive types as determined by the ALCAM process and are designed, constructed and operated in line with the Australian Standard for railway crossings and the Queensland Manual Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

All of Bundaberg Sugar’s locomotives are fitted with cameras that record views looking forward and backward along the rail track as well a view of the inside of the cabin.

This provides valuable information if a near miss or an incident occurs,” explained Mr Curtis.

Bundaberg Police Senior Sergeant, Michael McGarry, said many motorists do not realise that failing to stop or give way at the signage situated at a level crossing is a traffic infringement.

“Whether level crossings have flashing lights or signage only, motorists must be vigilant and drive to the conditions, slowing down and obeying the signals.

Currently motorists could receive a $400 traffic infringement notice and three demerit points for the following offences:

  • Fail to stop at ‘STOP’ sign at level crossing
  • Fail to give way at ‘STOP’ sign at level crossing
  • Fail to give way at ‘GIVE WAY’ sign at level crossing
  • Enter level crossing while warning lights or bells operating
  • Enter level crossing while train on crossing
  • Enter level crossing while train approaching crossing and collision likely
  • Enter level crossing while crossing or road beyond is blocked
  • Fail to leave level crossing as soon as practicable

“Road users must also be mindful that during the cane harvesting season we see more heavy vehicles on our roads, such as trucks, harvesters and haul‐outs. Be patient and only overtake when safe to do so,” Senior Sergeant McGarry said.

Mr Curtis added that it was also important for parents to be aware of their children’s activities and whereabouts and remind their children to keep well away from the cane rail tracks.

“Many developments including businesses, housing and schools have been built nearby to cane railways,” he said.

“Staying clear of the tracks is the best way for everyone to be safe.”

2021 cane crush begins in Burdekin and Mackay regions

Burdekin cane farmers are set to harvest an estimated 7.97 million tonnes this season, on par with the 2020 throughput of 7.91mt.

Today marks a busy day in the Burdekin region, with crushing commencing at all four of Wilmar Sugar’s mills.

The Invicta, Pioneer, Kalamia, and Inkerman mills ran steam trials over the past fortnight to commission boilers and other steam-driven plant, ensuring they were ready for the first cane to go up the belt this morning.

“We’ve done a huge amount of capital and maintenance work across the four sites since the end of last crush, and our crews should be very proud of what they’ve achieved,” Wilmar Burdekin regional operations manager Paul Turnbull said.

The Herbert and Plane Creek mills are set to start crushing on June 15, while Proserpine is scheduled to begin on June 29.

Production commenced at Mackay Sugar’s Farleigh mill last Thursday. A cane elevator drive failed shortly after start-up, however the issue was repaired overnight and the mill is operational again.

Racecourse Mill is set to commence on June 11, while Marian will start crushing on June 15.

The crush at Marian was delayed due to repairs on the mud/ash clarifier and to finalise upgrade works for the boiler operating system.

Mackay Sugar is preparing to crush an estimated 5.3mt of cane this season.

Farmers and motorists are being reminded to take care on the roads due to the influx of cane trains and haul-out vehicles.

Wilmar Burdekin cane supply manager John Tait said locos are now delivering empty bins to cane rail sidings across the region.

“It’s really important that people approach level crossings with caution and look out for cane trains,” Mr Tait said.

“We’ve had a few months without cane train activity and people naturally become complacent. With the crushing season commencing, we’re urging residents and visitors to switch their train brains back on.”

Sunny Season Ahead

The NSW Sugar industry will kick off the 2021 crushing season with an outlook that can only be described
as sunny.

The three sugar mills across the Northern Rivers; at Condong, Broadwater and Harwood; will fire into
action from the 8th of June, following an intensive off-season maintenance program.

The estimate for the overall crop tonnage is still uncertain following a very wet but warm growing season

that including some flooding.
The feeling amongst growers is buoyant, with the prospect of their cane price for the season being as high
as $37 to $38 per tonne, depending on CCS (sugar content).

Chairman and cane grower, Mr Jim Sneesby said: “The news of a significant lift in cane price, is definitely
instilling a positive feeling within the local sugar industry.”

Almost 100% of the planned sugar make is already locked into the Sunshine Sugar sales program, with
customer orders in place Australia-wide.

Sunshine Sugar’s CEO, Mr Chris Connors recently addressed cane growers to share the positive news, not
only in regard to cane price, but also to give an update on the commercial developments made across a
number of diversification projects, including botanical water and a gourmet mushroom product – both of
which will utilise assets within the cane stalk to produce alternate products and new income streams.

“This is an exciting time for our local sugar industry;” commented Mr Connors. “Agriculture is seeing a
surge in interest and the NSW sugar industry can demonstrate a proven track record in being sustainable,
providing long-term returns to its growers and a solid plan for future growth; making it an appealing
proposition for farmers and investors alike.“