It’s an Ill Wind That Blows Nobody Any Good

During the first era of Albert Barbusci’s “Novaporte” scheme, one I have come to think of as the “Sino” era, China was going to be key to everything: China was going to finance, build and operate a deep-water terminal for ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) in Sydney Harbour.

This gave certain CBRM municipal officials and staff an excuse to go to China which some—former Mayor Cecil Clarke, his executive assistant Mark Bettens, CBRM CAO Marie Walsh, the municipality’s then-economic development manager John Phalen—were quick to take, Clarke more than once.

Two men standing behind two men sitting at a table.

Former CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke signs “sister city” agreement with Chinese city of Dalian in 2015 as Novaporte CEO Albert Barbusci looks on.


The Sino Period of Sydney Port Development ran from roughly 2014 to 2019, at which point Barbusci announced China was no longer interested in the project, but those five years were not without achievement:

A 2015 sister city agreement with Dalian, China

A 2016 agreement with Ports America to operate the terminal.

A 2017 MOU with 15 local trades union giving local building trades a leading role in the construction of the Novaporte container terminal on Sydney harbour

Okay, I take that back. Those five years were basically without achievement.


Something fishy

Fast forward to March 2023 which I think we will one day remember as the beginning of the Danish Period of Sydney Port Development. Barbusci held a press conference in Membertou to announce that he was pivoting to wind: Sydney was to become a marshaling port for wind turbines first, with the ULCV terminal to follow at some unspecified later date.

Our man already had a connection—the Danish logistics and shipping company Blue Water—and was off to Baltimore that very week to sign up “three or four” American offshore wind developers as clients. The deal was as good as done.

Whether anything comes of this latest plot twist remains to be seen but one thing is certain: CBRM officials still know a travel opportunity when they see one:

Facebook post

Source: Facebook


If you’re wondering how both the mayor and the deputy mayor can travel to Copenhagen at the same time, given the purpose of the second is to fill in for the first, you’re not alone in your bewilderment. Although I do find it amusing that the deputy mayor in question, James Edwards, is a big proponent of Donkin coal and really hope he brings it up over the buffet at Wind Europe 2023. (Any Succession fans out there will know the kind of scene I’m picturing.)

My real question, though, is when did they book this? Barbusci only announced his pivot to wind in March, they must have started scanning the world for likely events before his jaws had even stopped flapping.

As for how much we’re paying for it, the conference website says a three-day conference & exhibition pass for a non-member costs €1,550 or $2,300, then there’s air travel, meals and accommodations and we’re talking Copenhagen, which made the Top 10 list of the world’s most expensive cities in 2022, so this won’t be cheap.

But look how happy they all are—and they’ve already toured a port (Esbjerg, where Blue Water is headquartered).

Maybe my mistake has been to think of this travel as having any purpose other than to put a smile on a small-town municipal operator’s face. Maybe we should view Novaporte as a sort of Make-A-Wish foundation for underprivileged CBRM politicians and consultants who might never otherwise be able to justify travel to Beijing or Copenhagen.

Although if Barbusci really could make dreams come true, he’d probably start with his own.