Minister for state development, manufacturing, infrastructure and planning Cameron Dick today announced that Queensland’s independent coordinator-general has approved the port upgrades, with very stringent reef safeguards.
The project will create on average more than 195 direct full-time equivalent jobs during construction, including professional services and engineering jobs to upgrade wharves at the Port of Cairns, widen and deepen the existing Trinity Inlet shipping channel and install new navigational aids.
“The Ports North project will be a game-changer for the Far North Queensland tourism industry by allowing a significant increase in the size and number of cruise ships and other vessels that can berth in Cairns,” said Dick. “Economic modelling suggests the project will deliver an $850 million boost to Far North Queensland tourism.”
The Cairns Shipping Development Project will allow for over 100 additional cruise ships to berth each year in the Port of Cairns by 2031, potentially tripling of the number of passenger-days spent in Cairns. “More significantly, the upgrade will enable mega class cruise ships up to 300m in length to berth at the port,” added Dick.
Deeper channel access to the HMAS Cairns Navy base will also enhance the potential for the Royal Australian Navy’s larger ships and US naval carriers to berth in Cairns, enabling future expansion of defence activities in the region.
Increased channel depth and width will also improve the efficiency and safety of existing and future shipping operations, said Dick.
“In his evaluation report, the coordinator-general evaluated all the possible environmental impacts and sets comprehensive conditions to manage potential impacts on Trinity Inlet within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and state marine park,” said Dick. “They include managing marine water quality, plant clearing and activity in the state marine park."
Minister for transport and main roads Mark Bailey added that the previous scope of the project - involving 4.4 million cubic metres of dredge spoil and costing up to AU$440 million - didn’t stack up, environmentally or economically.
Speaker of the Queensland Parliament and member for Mulgrave, Curtis Pitt, welcomed the finalisation of the state’s consideration of the Environmental Impact Statement. “The volume of dredging has been reduced by 77 per cent, from 4.4 million cubic metres to 1 million cubic metres, and all capital dredge material will be placed on land, not dumped at sea as once proposed by the previous government,” he said. “The reduced dredging volume has environmental benefits, will result in faster completion timeframes and will mean the benefits to Cairns are delivered sooner.”
Subject to Commonwealth environmental approvals, Ports North plan to start work in 2019 and have the first larger cruise ship entering the upgraded channel in late 2019.