Melbourne’s channel deepening passes halfway mark

One year on, Victoria’s largest and most complex marine infrastructure project is on time and under budget. With the Channel Deepening Project now more than 50% complete, dredging operations are claimed to have been carried out within the strictest environmental standards ever seen in Australia.
Stephen Bradford, CEO of PoMC, said the project’s advanced work methods had set a benchmark for dredging activities worldwide, and additionally had been conducted with minimal disruption to the users of Port Phillip Bay.
“In the past 12 months we have made significant progress towards completing this project. We are under budget and on schedule and well on course to delivering this project within the set environmental limits,” he said.
“So far we have conducted more than 175,000 hours of monitoring using 20 hi-tech buoys in the Bay. We also continue monitoring with aerial photography, satellite imagery and scuba diving.
“Data from the bay-wide monitoring programs show the Bay to be in a healthy condition and beaches to be in great shape.”
Mr Bradford explained that the project was vital to Melbourne as Australia’s largest container port, handling more than 2 million containers a year or 36% of the nation’s container trade. He said currently 55% of container ships now transiting to Melbourne were potentially draught-constrained as they are unable to fully load.
“They are constrained by the depth of the channels, which if not corrected, will impact on the port’s viability and jobs and business in Victoria,” he said.
In spite of the global economic downturn, Mr Bradford insists that the project was never about a short-term fix.
“It’s not about 30 weeks. It’s a 30-year program designed to protect the economic future of Victoria over the long term,” he said.
Mr Bradford said a great deal of credit for the project’s achievements stem from the Alliance
partnership with international dredging contractor Royal Boskalis Westminster, which “has brought world-class expertise and resources to ensure the success of this project. So far, there have been more than 700,000 hours alone worked on dredging and related Bay activities.”
He said other associated works were progressing well, including berth works and the protection of underwater services in the Yarra River. There is an ongoing program of structural upgrades at Appleton Dock, Swanson Dock, Holden Dock and Gellibrand Pier and works are continuing involving navigation aids, the swing basin and bank stabilisation.
Mr Bradford also praised Bay users for continuing to avoid restricted access areas in place around dredge vessels and for steering clear of project equipment and commercial vessels.
“While we’re pleased with the progress to date, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll continue to operate with a high level of diligence applied right through to project completion, focussing particularly on ensuring that we meet obligations outlined in the Environmental Management Plan,” he said.
Project overview:
• The project started on 8 February 2008.
• To date, more than 11 million cubic metres has been dredged.
• More than 175,000 hours of monitoring conducted in the bay with buoys.
• Over 700,000 hours worked on dredging and bay activities.
• Currently 55% of container ships unable to load to full capacity in Melbourne.
• Major dredging within the Bay is scheduled for completion by 31 August.
• Works including berth and navigation aid upgrades due for completion by 31 December.
Port of Melbourne:
• Australia’s largest container and general cargo port.
• Handles around $90 billion in trade every year.
• More than 3500 commercial ship calls each year.
• Over $90 million in exports on average every day go through the port.
• Generates employment for tens of thousands of people across Victoria.

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