Darwin, at the northern tip of Australia, is developing its port to capture Asian trade by constructing a new railway which will connect the city to a much larger catchment area in the south. The capital city of the Northern Territory was investing A$200 million (about HK$956.08 million) to develop its port facilities, which it hoped would attract time-sensitive goods destined for Sydney and Melbourne, territory chief minister Clare Martin said. The port will be completed in the first quarter of next year with the opening of a A$1.3 billion railway linking the mining fields and manufacturing plants in the south to Darwin by a daily train. Shipments from Hong Kong to Sydney through Darwin via the railway could cut two to three days off direct maritime shipment schedules, which traditionally take 11 days, according to carrier executives. 'The port of Darwin will be competing with the ports at Sydney and Melbourne. But hopefully, it will also be complementary,' Ms Martin said yesterday. 'We are targeting time-sensitive goods. Our focus will also be bulk, minerals, agricultural produce and automobile parts manufactured in the south,' she said. Exports from the Northern Territory to Hong Kong accounted for A$144.9 million from 2001 to last year, whereas imports trickled in at A$6.68 million during the same period, according to the Northern Territory Government. 'Our major exports to Hong Kong are fresh fruit, seafood and pearls. Trade with Hong Kong is small, but we can grow it,' she said. Annual container throughput at the port of Darwin was several thousand teu (20-ft equivalent units), Ms Martin said. But she expected the figure would increase to 50,000 teu in five years. A private company, FreightLink, will operate the railway, port and inter-modal facilities. Ms Martin was unable to reveal the per-unit cost of the full Hong Kong-Sydney transit through Darwin. She said the Northern Territory would spend A$9 million this year on a business park next to the port to support freight consolidation, pre-retail processing, trade management and cold storage facilities.