Frequently Asked Questions

Port of Townsville has engaged extensively with its community and key stakeholders across the 10 year planning phase of the Port Expansion Project.

Community forums, presentations and information sessions have been held with businesses, schools, community groups, advocacy groups and Government. Our forums included independent experts from James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science as well as consultants we have used in the project planning process. Some of these information forums were recorded and can be viewed at the links below.

If you’d like to hear more about the project in a one-on-one environment, contact the team today on 0436 653 343 to book your presentation.

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 Channel 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 newly constructed 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. A Community and Stakeholder Engagement Plan (CSEP) is available on the website.

Project 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 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. 

Over the past 40 years ship sizes have grown significantly and are continuing to get bigger. Townsville's shipping channels have not kept up with this growth, and are half the width of shipping channels at other ports.

Larger ships are now bypassing Townsville to pick up and drop off North Queensland freight at other Australian ports where they can fit.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Who will oversee the dredging program for channel widening?
  1. The Channel Upgrade will be carried out in accordance with a stringent Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) which set 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 (ITAC) will provide oversight of the dredging and will work closely with the dredging team 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.

For Further Information call Toll Free

1800 531 561


Located 1,360 kilometres north of Brisbane, The Port of Townsville is a world-class gateway for trade and investment.