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Page last updated on 01-06-2022.
Channel Upgrade Overview
The Channel Upgrade will be delivered over a period of six years from 2018 to 2023. Under the delivery schedule, it will create 120 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs in Townsville during construction and support 245 FTE jobs in Queensland.
The Channel Upgrade project is a joint project of the Queensland and Australian Governments and Port of Townsville Limited and forms part of the Townsville City Deal signed in December 2016.
Several principles were established to guide the procurement and delivery methodology for the project including:
- Minimise disruption to commercial shipping in the channel and harbour
- Maximise flexibility of works delivery for weather events (eg. cyclones) over the duration of construction
- Ensure construction works are aligned with environmental approvals and conditions across the Port Expansion Project
- Maximise whole of life asset cost
The Channel Upgrade project will take about five years in total. The first year will be preparation works, followed by rock supply and construction of the rock wall. Capital dredging for channel widening and filling of the reclamation area will complete the project.
- 2018: Environmental approvals received.
- April 2019: Rock haulage begins
- March 2020: Start of rock wall construction for the 62ha port reclamation area at the eastern end of the Port.
- June 2021: Completion of rock wall
- July 2021: Construction of a temporary unloading facility on the western bund begins
- Early 2022: Start of capital dredging to widen the shipping channel.
- Mid-project: Ships up to 265 metres will be able to safely access the Port.
- 2021 – 2023: Placement of 100% capital dredge material at the port reclamation area.
- 2023: Channel widening completed. Vessels of up to 300 metres in length will be able to safely access the Port.
In April 2019, local suppliers began delivering more than 800,000 tonnes of rock to the Port, which was used to construct a 2.2km rock wall that will bund a 62 hectare port reclamation area.
The rock was sourced from seven third-party quarries west of Townsville.
Rock Wall Construction
Hauled rock was used to construct a new rock wall to the north of the existing East Port, at the mouth of Ross River.
Construction of the 2.2km rock wall started in March 2020 and was completed in June 2021.
The rock wall forms the perimeter of the 62 hectare port reclamation area where capital dredge material will be placed..
The rock wall measures 550m along the eastern and western bunds and 1100m across the connecting northern bund. The rock wall is about 10-metres high and was constructed using more than 800,000 tonnes of rock. The design incorporates a finely woven geotextile material along the entire inner face of the wall, which will keep sediment and dredge material from passing through the wall during construction. This design is based on a similar rock wall at the Port of Townsville, which successfully weathered Cyclone Yasi and other storm surges.
The Port of Townsville and all contractors engaged for the rock wall construction ensured the project complies with very strict environmental approval requirements and have undertaken numerous programs to monitor and protect the surrounding marine environment, including the monitoring of:
- Inshore dolphins
- Marine water quality
- Shorebirds; and
- Other megafauna such as dugongs, turtles and whales.
During rock wall construction and channel widening, lights and buoys will mark safety and exclusion zones. A traffic management plan will be devised for vessels when channel widening is occurring.
Temporary Unloading Facility
The contractor for the dredging work, Hall Contracting Pty Ltd, mobilsed on site in July 2021 and have started constructing a temporary unloading facility on the western wall where dredge material will be unloaded for placement in the reclamation. This will take about four months to complete before dredging can commence.
The channel will be widened from 92m to 180m at the habour entrance tapering to 120m at the end of the sea channel.
Capital dredging will be carried out using Woomera, a mechanical backhoe dredge which is the largest of its kind in Australia.
Woomera uses an excavator to dig compact material from the seabed, which will then be placed on to a waiting barge and transported to the unloading facility for placement in the reclamation area.
A mechanical dredge may be slower than other types of dredgers, however, it provides the best environmental outcomes for Cleveland Bay.
Mechanical dredges do not loosen dredge material with water before removing it, meaning a much higher proportion of solid material is removed in each load and less sediment is left to flow through the marine environment.
Most capital dredging, about 90 per cent, will take place in the Platypus Channel close to the Port where the channel will be extended to 180m wide. About 10 per cent of the dredging will occur in the Sea Channel which runs adjacent to Magnetic Island. This area is naturally deeper and will only need to be widened to 120m.
Woomera will operate 24/7, weather permitting, until capital dredging is complete.
All capital dredge material will be brought back to land and beneficially reused for future Port developments.
This reuse of the capital dredge material is in accordance with the Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 and Australia’s UNESCO 2050 commitments.
The Port Reclamation Area
The port reclamation area will create more land for the Port of Townsville’s future developments and significantly improve the Port’s capacity to meet forecast trade demand over the next 30 years.
The 62 hectare area, bunded by the new rock wall, will ensure dredge material from the channel widening will be beneficially reused.
Completion of the port reclamation area is the final stage of the Channel Upgrade project and is due for completion in 2023.