NQBP Introduces Abbot Point Dredging Details (Australia)
North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP) has a long and respected history of successfully delivering dredging projects at its various ports. For over three decades NQBP has been undertaking dredging programs to ensure the safe navigation of ships and port efficiency.
This highly regulated process has been undertaken without significant impacts with the material dredged returned safely to the marine environment.
As the port authority for some of Australia’s largest ports, NQBP follows an approach based on sustainable planning, thorough environmental management and rigorous environmental monitoring.
A dredging campaign is required at Abbot Point to achieve the required depths in the berth pockets and departure area for new coal terminal expansions at the port: T0, T2 and T3.
Key Facts About the Proposed Dredging Campaign
The Approval Process
The project is being assessed under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
It has been deemed a controlled action under the Act and is assessable by Public Environment Report (PER). Comments are currently being sought from the public on the PER. Comments close on 15 February.
The dredged material will be removed from future berth and apron areas within the specified Abbot Point port area, adjacent to the existing offshore berths.
The area to be dredged covers about 180 hectares.
Volume of Dredged Material
Up to three million cubic metres of clean material will be dredged.
It is estimated the dredging will take a total of about 10 weeks, over a number of campaigns. Dredging and disposal will only be carried out between April and October to avoid the turtle nesting and wet seasons.
Why Offshore Disposal?
Dredged material disposal at sea requires extensive analysis of alternatives in accordance with international protocols (London Convention) and Commonwealth requirements (Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981)).
Decisions with regards to dredging are based on the best overall environmental outcome.
Offshore disposal was chosen to achieve the best environmental outcomes. This decision was arrived at after a comprehensive workshop was undertaken along with the regulators. Sea disposal was determined a superior option compared to land disposal and the significant environmental and cultural heritage issues that would result.
Disposal Location and Plume Footprint
The dredged material will be disposed at a designated location about 25 kilometres offshore, away from coral reefs, in about 40 metres of water depth. The seabed at the disposal area does not contain any habitat of ecological significance.
Release of the dredged material will occur under the water surface and most of the coarse material will fall out of the water column and settle primarily within the disposal area boundary. Some fine sediment in the dredged material will be suspended in the water column and travel in a north westerly direction (away from Holbourne Island).
Impact on Holbourne Island
Expert and peer reviewed 3D modelling of the distribution of the dredged material plume indicates that the plume will not reach Holbourne Island.
No Toxic Materials
Sediment analysis was carried out following the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging and identified no contaminants present in the sediment at levels that could result in environmental harm.
Only material that has been tested and determined suitable for ocean disposal, and not toxic or hazardous material, can be disposed of at sea.
Ongoing Water Quality Monitoring
A water quality monitoring program has already been implemented and incorporates the latest scientific thinking with key criteria based on the protection of ecological communities present at Abbot Point.
This is a long-term program which will continue after dredging occurs.
Marine Environment Impacts
Marine ecology surveys of the disposal site and the surrounding area did not identify any communities or habitat with unique or high ecological values. While some impacts may occur, they will be minor and short-term.
The scientific studies and modelling carried out show any impacts from dredging will be temporary and will not impact fishing in the long-term.
Plume modelling shows suspended sediment will not affect habitat such as coral reefs that may support finfish species.
However, NQBP will work with the fishing community and scientific experts to ensure that any impacts to fisheries are monitored throughout the project and will look at options for establishing a long-term management strategy.
Impact on the Caley Valley Wetlands
There will be no impact on the Caley Valley Wetlands from this dredging project.
Vessel Numbers and Anchorage Management
There has been considerable public comment and speculation on the likely growth in ship numbers. Some of the estimates provided have been highly inflated.
Shipping has existed in the Great Barrier Reef area for over 100 years. It is highly regulated and stringent management arrangements are in place.
The average growth rate in shipping at Abbot Point over the past 10 years has been 3.8%, with a similar steady growth pattern in total State shipping numbers. The planning underway at present estimates a forward growth rate of 11% at Abbot Point, which considering current market conditions, is at the upper end of likely scenarios. This scenario would see ship visit numbers increase to just over 800 in 2020. NQBP will also work with industry, regulators and stakeholders, such as the fishing sector, to develop anchorage management arrangements which ensure safety, but also limit other impacts.
The expansion of Abbot Point has enormous benefits for Bowen and the region and State in terms of development and employment, as well as State funding for hospitals, schools and roads.
Press Release, February 4, 2013