Historically, the major mode of transport into the Region was by sea, with Broome, Derby and Wyndham ports being the gateways for the Region's imports and exports. These ports continue to operate as trade links for the Region. The State Government continues to support the north-west shipping service as it operates between the ports of Fremantle, Broome, Wyndham and Darwin.
The Port of Derby operated as an export facility for lead/zinc concentrate from 1997 to 2003 and used barges to convey commodities into and out of the Port. The Port's facilities are being upgraded and will be complete by mid 2006. This will include a modern fender system, a new barge landing facility and floating breakwater.
Live cattle, mining and other agricultural commodities are exported and general cargo and fuel is imported into the Region through the Ports of Broome and Wyndham. Naval vessels, fishing vessels, pearling and tourism vessels also use these ports. For example cruise ships use Broome as a stopover point, enhancing tourist income to the Region, while improving the exposure of the Kimberley as a tourism destination.
Facilities at the Port of Broome have been substantially upgraded with a 148 metre jetty extension and the establishment of support facilities for the offshore oil and gas exploration industry and other users. The Port of Broome can accommodate vessels up to 40,000 tonnes, which with the completion of upgrades in 2006, will increase to 50,000 tonnes.
Wyndham Port can accommodate vessels up to 26,000 tonnes and has the facilities for night operations. It is expected that mining operations in the East Kimberley and Ord River Irrigation Scheme, following its expansion will utilise the Port of Wyndham.
Derby Port was originally designed to handle vessels up to 15,000 tonnes. Barge landing facilities are available at Derby and Wyndham and small craft facilities are available at Broome, Derby and Wyndham.
Jebsens Coastal Shipping Service service the North West coast and offers fortnightly sailing's from Fremantle to Broome, Wyndham and Darwin with inducement calls available to other ports enroute including Dampier and Port Hedland. Services offered and cargoes carried to date include, wharf/wharf, hook/hook and door/door of all types of cargo including containerised, breakbulk and bulker bags. A vast variety of products carried include commodities such as Cement, Lime and Fertiliser through to luxury boats, barges, tugs and mining machinery.