An international battle for control is raging over a strategically important grain export facility in Albany, developed to spearhead a Chinese group’s Australian expansion plans. Senior officials from Southern Ports Authority, liquidators of failed export hopeful Vicstock Grain and Chinese agricultural group Heilongjiang Feng are among the players wrangling over the now idle facility. Export giant CBH is believed to be eyeing the two tenements, capable of storing 25,000 tonnes of grain and filling ships year-round. The row is understood to be under the watch of officials working for Ports Minister Alannah MacTiernan, pictured, because of the sensitivity of investment from China, WA’s major trading partner, but also viewed with suspicion by security agencies. Despite Vicstock liquidators being in talks with Southern Ports, the State Government said this week the Albany port operator planned to seek expressions of interest for the Vicstock-developed export facility around the second quarter of 2021. Geelong-based Vicstock, run by former Heilongjiang Australian director Harold Sim, spent tens of millions of dollars developing the former woodchip loading facilities into a 25,000 tonne grain storage and export depot. But Southern Ports refused to renew the lease in July 2019 — claiming the emerging player failed to meet minimum export requirements. A State Government spokesperson said Vicstock did not export any grain between 2013 and 2019, when the lease expired. Heilongjiang and Vicstock have ambitious plans to become a major grain exporter from WA. Heilongjang bought thousands of hectares of farms across the Wheatbelt in an $85 million buying spree seven years ago. But the partners later wound back operations and leased its land to other farmers. And with export plans reeling after Southern Ports’ refusal to extend the Albany lease, Heilongjang launched a $35m Supreme Court action against Vicstock in December last year as doubts grew about the future of its Australian partner. Vicstock went into liquidation in May. Any potential restructure proposal from Heilongjang and Mr Sim is believed to be dependent on negotiations over the Albany port facility In a report to creditors, liquidator Richard Lawrence blamed the failure on Southern Ports refusing the extend Vicstock’s lease. Mr Lawrence said the initial lease expired in 2019 but there was a provision for the lease to be extended by 10 years if Vicstock “shipped a certain minimum tonnage during the three years prior”. He said Vicstock disputed the basis for Southern Ports not granting the lease extension. A spokesman for Ms MacTiernan said Southern Ports intended to seek expressions of interest for the facility as soon as possible. The spokesman said this process was subject to confidential discussions with Vicstock over a proposal it has made for consideration by Albany Ports.