The Australian Cairns Shipping Development Project aimed at making room for larger ships in the Port of Cairns has received the green light from the Australian Federal Government with the sign off of the project’s environmental impact statement.
This was the final environment approval by government following the Queensland Coordinator-General’s approval of the project in February this year.
The AUD 120 million worth endavour includes dredging to widen and deepen the existing outer shipping channel, the Trinity Inlet, opening the way for larger ships with a particular focus on mega cruise vessels.
“This is a major milestone in the approval process and underlines the confidence Federal Government has in our environmental management credentials,” Ports North Chairman, Russell Beer said in a statement to World Maritime News commenting on the development.
“Ports North is continuing to work with both state and local governments to finalize other relevant approvals while advancing the project. Tender processes for a dredging contract and wharf design are currently underway.”
Ports North plans to undertake construction and dredging work in 2019.
In line with the revised EIS, the Ports North is focusing on capturing the growth in mid-to-large mega ships, hence the capital dredge volume has been reduced from 4.4 million cubic metres to 1 million.
The plan envisages the existing inner harbour channel and Crystal swing basin to be widened and deepened and a new shipping swing basin, Smith’s Creek swing basin, to be established to enable future expansion of the HMAS Cairns Navy base.
The project also includes upgrading of existing shipping wharves.
The proponent of the project is Far North Queensland Ports Corporation Ltd, trading as Ports North. Ports North is a company Queensland Government Owned Corporation responsible for the development and management of the Ports of Cairns, Cape Flattery, Karumba, Mourilyan, Skardon River, Quintell Beach, Thursday Island, Burketown and Cooktown.
“The comprehensive EIS will allow for restricted dredging of one million cubic metres and will also allow for the widening and deepening the existing outer shipping channel and inner harbour channel. However, the EIS allows for dredging up to four million cubic metres should it be required in the future,” Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said.
“This means more, and larger, cruise ships (up to 100 by 2031) will be able to come to Cairns along with larger defence and commercial vessels.”
Based on the recently released data from the Cruise Lines International Association Australasia and the Australian Cruise Association, the economic impact of cruise shipping in the Far North Queensland region was worth almost AUD 170 million for the 2017-18 financial year.
“Our region is a premier cruise shipping destination and the Cairns Shipping Development Project will build on this success by opening the way for larger vessels to enter the Trinity Inlet,” Beer said.
The report found that Sydney led the nation in the most-visited port or anchorage, followed by Brisbane, Melbourne then Cairns.
“Cairns is number four in Australia behind three major cities and ahead of 37 other cruise ship destinations throughout the country,” Beer added. “We continue to punch above our weight.”