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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What does the Townsville Port do?

Townsville Port is the largest container and automotive port in Northern Australia, supplying a population of nearly 800,000 people with essential things like fuel, food, furniture, electrical goods, clothing and cars. Farmers export their products like sugar, frozen meat, cattle, fruit and vegetables and mining companies ship out commodities like copper, zinc, silver and lead. Townsville Port is designated by the Queensland Government as a Priority Port. This is because of the role it plays in servicing the largest city in Northern Australia and the vast mining and agricultural districts in Northern Queensland. Townsville Port also supports critical Defence operations and cruise tourism in the region, and will welcome more than 33,000 passengers and crew to Townsville in 2017/2018. 8,000 jobs are connected to the operation of the Port.

How will the channel be widened?

The channel will be widened using a combination of industry standard dredging equipment chosen to ensure minimal impact to the environment.The mechanical dredge is an excavator mounted onto a pontoon which digs the material from the sea bed and puts it onto a waiting barge. The barge then moves the material to the reclamation area to the east of the Port. No capital dredge material is disposed of at sea – it will be placed into a fully contained area at the Port.

What is the difference between the sea channel and platypus channel?

The Sea Channel (also referred to as the entrance channel), is the first section that ships use to access Townsville and is approximately 11 kilometres north-east of the Port. Platypus Channel begins approximately 1.8 kilometres from the Port and provides access into the inner harbour (where the ships berth).

Is any part of the Townsville Channel Capacity Upgrade project located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park?

No. The Townsville Port is located outside the Great Barrier Marine Park. All capital dredge material from the channel widening project will be beneficially re-used in the reclamation area. No material will be disposed of at sea.

How will Port of Townsville keep the community updated about this project?

The Port Community Liaison Group had its first meeting in March 2017 and monthly meetings thereafter. This group will expand upon and continue the great work of the Port Stakeholder Working Group, which was established to act as a conduit between the Port and Port customers and the community on air quality around the Port of Townsville.

Monthly updates will be published on our website, in the Townsville Bulletin and our social media channels. A quarterly e-newsletter is distributed to our email data base.

What is the Channel Capacity Upgrade and why is it needed?

Over the last 150 years the Port has expanded in three key stages in response to growth of the region. The Port Expansion Project is a long-term development of six new berths and channel widening and deepening staged to meet forecast trade demand over the next 30 years. The first stage of the Project is the widening of the channel to cater for larger ships.

What will be the environmental impact of widening the channel?

An Environmental Impact Statement has been undertaken to evaluate any environmental impacts of channel widening works, in particular possible impacts from dredging on water quality. Extensive modelling and monitoring has informed the design, staging and method of construction to ensure minimal impacts to the environment.

An independent Scientific Oversight Panel will set thresholds to safeguard environmental performance. The Panel will have the ability to stop works if any impacts are observed through the extensive and continuous monitoring programs that will be in place.

How long will it take to widen the channel?

The channel widening will be undertaken over 4.5 years following receipt of all environmental and operational works approvals. This includes 1 year to prepare the fully enclosed bunded areas to receive all capital dredge material, and 3.5 years of dredging work. Around 80% of the work to widen the channel is at the harbour entrance and the Platypus Channel, with around 20% of works in the Sea Channel.

What is a berth?

A berth is a designated location in a port or harbour used for mooring (parking) vessels when they are not at sea. Berths are the parking bays of the port, and the channel is like the driveway.

Why does Cleveland Bay’s water look dirty sometimes, is this from dredging?

Cleveland Bay is a shallow and naturally turbid bay. A number of factors contribute to turbidity levels, most particularly natural weather events including wind, tides, flooding, cyclones and sediment run-off from creeks and riverways and increased urbanisation. Water quality monitoring undertaken in Cleveland Bay shows that turbidity from dredging activities cannot be detected against natural turbidity levels. Monitoring and modelling works from dredging activities show that sediment from dredging dissipates in close proximity to the dredging activity itself.

Why does the channel need to be widened?

Over the last 150 years the Port has expanded in three key stages in response to growth of the region. The Port Expansion Project is a long term development of six new berths and channel widening and deepening staged to meet forecast trade demand over the next 30 years. The first stage of the Project is the widening of the channel to cater for larger ships.

Larger ships are already bypassing Townsville to pick up and drop off freight for North Queensland at capital city ports where they can fit. More cruise lines have already indicated that they want to call Townsville, but cannot fit the larger ships through the channel.

If the port is not a full capacity, why is an expansion needed?

If the channel is not widened now, North Queensland will be dependent on trucking or railing freight over 1,300 kilometres south to get to and from markets, adding increased time and cost for North Queenslanders. Larger cruise ships will also continue to sail past Townsville.

By widening the channel to give larger ships access, existing berths will be used more, our economy will grow, and there will be increasing demand for more berths.

How does a wider channel enable longer ships to access the port?

Townsville has a single lane channel which is very narrow by prescribed international standards. When a ship transits the channel, the steering of the ship is affected by a number of factors including the channel configuration, vessel size, vessel speed, wind speed, tidal variations and sea currents.

The channel needs to be much wider than the ship so that it has plenty of room either side to prevent it grounding. By widening the channel, longer and wider ships will be able to safely transit the channel in normal operating conditions.

Who will oversee the dredging program for channel widening?
  1. The Channel Capacity Upgrade Project will be carried out in accordance with a stringent Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which sets out controls and safeguards developed to meet the environmental approval requirements.
  2. The widening of the channel and harbour works will be governed by permits and approvals from a range of Commonwealth and Queensland government agencies (the “Regulators”). The Regulators will set conditions for the project, monitor and enforce compliance with these conditions.
  3. An Independent Technical Advisory Committee will provide oversight of the dredging and will work closely with the dredging teams to ensure the best environmental outcomes for the works are achieved.
  4. The Townsville Port Community Liaison Group will provide ongoing community input to the project.