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From National Nine News -

The Port of Melbourne has set a new monthly record in the amount of containers it moved in and out of the port last month.

The record "throughput" totalled 177,906 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) - the industry standard container size - surpassing the previous best of 170,895 TEU in October 2005.

The total container throughput for the previous 12 months to August 2006 set an Australian record of 1.953 million TEU, or more than the combined total for Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle.

The record container volumes were boosted by strong growth in loaded international exports which grew by 17.6 per cent compared with the August 2005 figure, the Port of Melbourne Corporation said in a statement.

Loaded overseas container imports increased by 11.5 per cent compared to the same month last year.

However, the port's chief executive, Stephen Bradford, urged caution on future trends based on the August figures, given there had been a slowdown in container volumes over the past year.

"The figures for the month of August are very encouraging, but it is too early to tell whether these volumes indicate a longer-term surge in exports or whether overall container throughput has bounced back," Mr Bradford said.

"However, these volumes clearly cement Melbourne's position as the premier container port in the country.

"It is also the best connected port in the country with the lowest port interface costs of any of the five capital city ports."

The new monthly volume record comes on the back of strong financial results for the port in the past year.

It recorded an after-tax profit of $48.5 million in 2005-06 after outlaying $80 million in capital expenditure on channel deepening, infrastructure projects and strategic land acquisition.

But the port's $580 million project to dredge shipping channels through Port Phillip Bay has been delayed while it completes additional environmental assessments.

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