The project involves removing 1.55 million cubic metres of material from the shipping channel and placing it 30km offshore. That volume is approximately half the amount of material that was removed from Outer Harbor in the 2005 Channel Deepening project, not double as suggested in recent media coverage.
Vincent Tremaine, CEO of Flinders Port Holdings stresses that this project is absolutely essential to protecting the import and export industry that contributes so greatly to South Australia’s economy.
“The Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal is the only container terminal in South Australia. Without widening the channel to accommodate these new larger vessels, containerised trade and cruise shipping will omit Adelaide from their shipping calls.” Mr Tremaine said.
“This will be an economic disaster with exports decimated, imported products increasing in cost and major job losses both directly at the port but with far greater flow on impacts as businesses close, downsize or move interstate,” he said.
“For those businesses that survive the loss of container shipping, their containers will have to be moved by road or rail to and from Melbourne at a high cost both to the importers and exporters, but also to the environment. Hundreds of thousands of additional truck movements will be necessary.”.
Currently, South Australia is the only capital city in Australia that does not have a port that can accommodate these larger ships. In 2014, the port saw 37 ships exceed the design width of the channel. In 2017, the number jumped to 312 and the ships continue to increase in size, demonstrating the need to be able to accommodate the rapidly increasing trend of Post Panamax sized vessels. As such, it is critical that the project proceeds now, noting that lodgement of the Development Application occurred in July 2017.
For safety reasons, Flinders Ports has only been able to accommodate a limited number of these ships (up to 43m width) and with stringent operating conditions, which causes significant operational disruption and is unsustainable for the future. The forecast is for a further increase in vessel size (width increase to 49m) which the existing channel cannot accommodate. The 40m widening will enable safe passage for this size vessel.
Flinders Ports holds an Environmental Certified Systems ISO 14001 certification and holds its’ environmental responsibility of utmost importance. “As custodians of the Port River and the shipping channel, we are acutely aware of the need to preserve our marine environments, and this is something that Finders Ports takes extremely seriously,” Mr Tremaine said.
A comprehensive Dredge Management Plan will be implemented to provide a clear plan for the monitoring and management of potential dredging impacts. This plan will be developed in conjunction with, and approved by, the EPA prior to the works being carried out. Also, industry best practice methodology has been selected to be applied to this project, including fitting dredging vessels with ‘green valves’ which significantly reduced turbidity (sediment plume).
In addition, testing has demonstrated the material is not contaminated and meets national standards for placement at sea. Sea disposal is common practise in numerous regions around the world, including a number of Australian States, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Modelling has been undertaken and has shown that sediment is not expected to accumulate on beaches or coastal wetland areas north and south of the approach channel. Water quality will be monitored throughout dredging.
There will be some impact on seagrass so Flinders Ports has proposed a range of mitigation measures working with the EPA, Department of Environment, Water & Natural Resources and others to identify and agree appropriate actions.
Flinders Ports is hopeful of commencing works in Autumn 2018. This will avoid dredging in summer when seagrass is more susceptible to damage from turbidity impacts.
A number of people are questioning why the dredge material is to be disposed of at sea rather than used for land fill. Land disposal was certainly considered but this was identified to add significant environmental and operational risk to the project as well as time and cost. The material is not suitable for land disposal as its composition means it would take many years to dry and it is unsuitable as a building base.
Land disposal requires the construction of a temporary slurry pipe system traversing the marine and land environments, including through the sensitive intertidal zone, which is a major factor that limits the viability of land based disposal.
The 2005 Channel Deepening Project
There has also been some recent misunderstanding about the previous channel dredging project in 2005, which was considered a success. It was undertaken under approved conditions from Development Assessment Commission and the EPA and was completed in full compliance with all approvals and licence conditions as established at the time.
Flinders Ports can confirm the conditions imposed as part of the licensing and approvals process were adhered to at all times and all dredge material was placed at the designated location 30km off shore.
Water quality monitoring did not identify turbidity levels that would have affected recreational conditions along nearby beaches and coastlines. Nor did it result in significant turbidity at the placement area with the Gulf St Vincent, due to the depth of the chosen site. The site was chosen because, at 40m deep, there is very little marine growth
Post-dredging monitoring by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in seagrass meadows south of the channel showed the gradual recovery of the seagrass in surveyed areas within 12 months of dredging.
In any event, it is worth noting that Flinders Ports has committed to a dredge methodology that significantly reduces the amount of sediment that is released into the environment when compared with the methodology used in 2005.
About Flinders Ports
Flinders Ports is South Australia’s leading port operator with seven ports located at Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Thevenard, Port Giles, Wallaroo and Klein Point. Prioritising safety and environmental management, Flinders Ports offers a range of port and port related services including pilotage, mooring, survey and marine control. It is part of the Flinders Port Holdings Group, which is led by Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Tremaine.