Expansion harbours community benefits

EXPANDING one of the busiest ports in the country was always going to be difficult. Expanding the fourth-largest coal export terminal in the world, less than 40km from the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, is the task facing the Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC).
A government-owned corporation since 1994, the GPC controls three ports, all in Queensland: Port Alma, the Port of Gladstone and the Port of Bundaberg. The main facility, the Port of Gladstone, currently handles about 90 million tonnes of product each year including coal, aluminium and petroleum. Projects around Gladstone Harbour include LNG plants and the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal; combined, the projects’ total capital expenditure is approaching $30 billion.
According to the GPC, this investment is estimated to increase exports by 50mt during the next five years. Major cargo has been shipped from Gladstone Harbour since the 1920s. The GPC has been the custodian of the harbour since 1914, and has operated dredging projects since the 1960s.
Strategic plans
In 1992, a 50-year strategic plan was released to inform stakeholders and the general public of plans for the Port of Gladstone. It included future expansion plans for Port Central, the
RG Tanna Coal Terminal and, in particular, the Western Basin.
“The main focus of the port’s future growth will be the Western Basin Development, which will have a capacity to move 150 to 200 million tonnes of product annually,” the report stated.
GPC chief executive officer Leo Zussino said that the expansion was carefully planned in advance.
“We were establishing that part of the Gladstone region as a sustainable industrial centre and, in doing that, there was some 28,000 hectares of land set aside for the Gladstone state development area to the northwest of Gladstone and that surrounds the Western Basin, so it’s logical that all of the new port activity would happen in the Western Basin,” Mr Zussino said.
“The benefit for that is that it separates effectively the major industrial activity and major new port activity from the community of Gladstone, so you can have this entire activity taking place in the Western Basin and in the Gladstone state development area, while having no detrimental environmental impact upon the Gladstone community.” Operations to widen and deepen the main shipping channel have already begun to extend shipping berths on Curtis Island, with four main dredges working on the project. An assortment of barges, tugs and pumps transport the dredged material to Fishermans Landing.
Due to be completed in 2014, the dredging and disposal project will cost about $1.3 billion and will see Gladstone become one of the world’s major LNG exporters. The master plan released by the Queensland Government explained in detail proposals for the expansion of Gladstone Harbour facilities during the next 30 years. “All of these new developments (Fisherman’s Landing, the Curtis Island gas precinct and Wiggins Island) are all inside the Western Basin of the port,” Mr Zussino explained.
“The Western Basin development is in accordance with the state and the Western Basin Master Plan, which is a statutory document of the Queensland State Government giving a 30-year planning profile for the basin and it also is in line with the port’s 50-year strategic plan.”
The Fishermans Landing expansion project involves reclaiming 150 hectares of wetlands surrounded by an 8.8km bund wall, at a cost of about $80 million.
The land currently sits below the high-water mark and belongs to the State Government.
The reclamation will provide additional land for the construction of six wharves, to meet the demand from increased traffic into the harbour as highlighted by the GPC 50-year strategic plan.
Expansion of the Western Basin and the construction of three LNG plants on Curtis Island for Australian Pacific LNG, Queensland Curtis LNG and Gladstone LNG will also create an unprecedented number of new jobs.
“With Wiggins Island and the three gas plants there will be some 9000 construction workers [during] peak construction. In addition to that, once the plants are completed, there is
an operational workforce of probably around 600 to 1000. But there is another significant workforce required for shutdowns at those plants so that workforce can be up to 2000,
so there is a significant flow-on effect of the projects onto the Gladstone economy and the Gladstone community,” Mr Zussino said.
The expansion has not encountered any major obstacles, according to Mr Zussino, apart from trying to house all the extra workers and maintaining the environmental integrity of the
harbour.
“All the projects had to get the appropriate environmental approval and, at this point in time, we have been able to apply the necessary human resources to the project. There is some
stress on the necessary accommodation felt in the community, but hopefully [this will EXPANDING one of the busiest ports in the country was always going to be difficult.
Expanding the fourth-largest coal export terminal in the world, less than 40km from the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, is the task facing the Gladstone Ports
Corporation (GPC).
A government-owned corporation since 1994, the GPC controls three ports, all in Queensland: Port Alma, the Port of Gladstone and the Port of Bundaberg. The main facility, the Port of Gladstone, currently handles about 90 million tonnes of product each year including coal, aluminium and petroleum. Projects around Gladstone Harbour include LNG plants and the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal; combined, the projects' total capital expenditure is approaching $30 billion.
According to the GPC, this investment is estimated to increase exports by 50mt during the next five years.
Major cargo has been shipped from Gladstone Harbour since the 1920s. The GPC has been the custodian of the harbour since 1914, and has operated dredging projects since the 1960s.
Strategic plans In 1992, a 50-year strategic plan was released to inform stakeholders and the general public of plans for the Port of Gladstone. It included future expansion plans for Port Central, the RG Tanna Coal Terminal and, in particular, the Western Basin.
“The main focus of the port’s future growth will be the Western Basin Development, which will have a capacity to move 150 to 200 million tonnes of product annually,” the report stated.
GPC chief executive officer Leo Zussino said that the expansion was carefully planned in advance.
“We were establishing that part of the Gladstone region as a sustainable industrial centre and, in doing that, there was some 28,000 hectares of land set aside for the Gladstone state development area to the northwest of Gladstone and that surrounds the Western Basin, so it’s logical that all of the new port activity would happen in the Western Basin,” Mr Zussino said.
“The benefit for that is that it separates effectively the major industrial activity and major new port activity from the community of Gladstone, so you can have this entire activity taking place in the Western Basin and in the Gladstone state development area, while having no detrimental environmental impact upon the Gladstone community.” Operations to widen and deepen the main shipping channel have already begun to extend shipping berths on Curtis Island, with four main dredges working on the project. An assortment of barges, tugs and
pumps transport the dredged material to Fishermans Landing.
Due to be completed in 2014, the dredging and disposal project will cost about $1.3 billion and will see Gladstone become one of the world’s major LNG exporters.
The master plan released by the Queensland Government explained in detail proposals for the expansion of Gladstone Harbour facilities during the next 30 years. “All of these new developments (Fisherman’s Landing, the Curtis Island gas precinct and Wiggins Island) are all inside the Western Basin of the port,” Mr Zussino explained.
“The Western Basin development is in accordance with the state and the Western Basin Master Plan, which is a statutory document of the Queensland State Government giving a 30-year planning profile for the basin and it also is in line with the port’s 50-year strategic plan."
The Fishermans Landing expansion project involves reclaiming 150 hectares of wetlands surrounded by an 8.8km bund wall, at a cost of about $80 million.
The land currently sits below the high-water mark and belongs to the State Government.
The reclamation will provide additional land for the construction of six wharves, to meet the demand from increased traffic into the harbour as highlighted by the GPC 50-year strategic plan.
Expansion of the Western Basin and the construction of three LNG plants on Curtis Island for Australian Pacific LNG, Queensland Curtis LNG and Gladstone LNG will also create an unprecedented number of new jobs.
“With Wiggins Island and the three gas plants there will be some 9000 construction workers [during] peak construction. In addition to that, once the plants are completed, there is an operational workforce of probably around 600 to 1000. But there is another significant workforce required for shutdowns at those plants so that workforce can be up to 2000, so there is a significant flow-on effect of the projects onto the Gladstone economy and the Gladstone community,” Mr Zussino said.
The expansion has not encountered any major obstacles, according to Mr Zussino, apart from trying to house all the extra workers and maintaining the environmental integrity of the harbour.
“All the projects had to get the appropriate environmental approval and, at this point in time, we have been able to apply the necessary human resources to the project. There is some stress on the necessary accommodation felt in the community, but hopefully [this willsubside] as the workers’ accommodation is established over the next 9-12 months,” he
said.
“The real pressure comes in 2013-2014 as we go to peak construction, when we will need more people to undertake the work.” Compensation conflict The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 established the boundaries of the reef that surrounds the Port of Gladstone.
Due to the proximity of the Barrier Reef, development in Gladstone attracts above-average attention.
With the expansion of the harbour, traffic through the Barrier Reef is increasing exponentially, while fishermen have had their access to the basin restricted.
“The Western Basin dredging and disposal project was conditioned to provide compensation to commercial fishing operators for loss of access to the basin, both temporary and permanent,” Mr Zussino said. “We are reclaiming 300 hectares of seabed, so that affected them.”
The Queensland Coordinator-General commissioned the Department of Climate and Economic Development to develop an appropriate compensation proposal, which
then went to a steering committee that was unable to achieve a consensus view. As a result, the Queensland Government is working with the GPC to create a new proposition that is substantive enough for the fishermen.
“We hope that it will be resolved… then the fisheries will administer payments to the fishers,” Mr Zussino said. “In the meantime, commercial fishing operators associated with the fishing industry, through Shine Lawyers, placed a class action on the Ports Corporation and that’s due for hearing in the Planning and Environment Court in June or mid-July this year.”
Environmental costs and concerns The other main issue facing the Port of Gladstone’s development is the occurrence of an unusual disease spreading thorough the marine wildlife.
A red rash or parasite has affected large numbers of barramundi, sharks, prawn and crabs.
The illness first appeared around the time that dredging of the harbour began. Testing by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry found an infestation of a parasitic worm in barramundi, as well as a parasitic worm on sharks and shell erosion on crustaceans.
The Department was unable to find a common cause for the illnesses. Fishermen have argued that the dredging disturbed sediments in the harbour, causing stress to the marine life
and rendering species more susceptible to illness.
Mr Zussino pointed out that around the same time the illness was observed, another more extreme event, more likely to be harmful to marine life in the harbour, occured: the Queensland floods.
During the worst flooding in the history of the state, more than 30,000 barramundi washed into the bay along with two million megalitres of fresh water from the burst Awoonga Dam.
For the first time in 25 years, the Boyne and Calliope river systems overflowed, washing sediment and contaminants into the harbour.
“There was a fish scientific panel report done earlier this year, and they said the combination of the stress conditions of the barramundi, and the lack of salinity and cooling of the water past [after] summer, helped the disease spread,” Mr Zussino said.
“All the monitoring by the State Government and CSIRO found that dredging is not causing the disease in the fish.
“We believe that the science is pointing to the fact that there is no issue in Gladstone Harbour.
“We are getting prawns and crabs out of Gladstone Harbour all through this supposed crisis.
“In the long weekend in June there is the Gladstone town hook-up [Boyne Tannum hook-up], a major fishing competition in Gladstone which attracts four to five thousand people, so it’s the best circumstance we have to refute all the nonsense that there is still an issue with diseased fish in Gladstone Harbour.”
A report released by CSIRO in December 2011 stated that it did not “find any elevated metal concentrations within location of the dredging activity”.
Mr Zussino said the GPC had spent considerable money to offset the environmental and economic impact of the dredging.
“The Corporation was conditioned, in discussion with the Queensland State Government, to use three types of equipment for the dredging which significantly minimised the turbidity impact of the harbour,” he said.
“The extra equipment used in the dredging project came at the extra cost of $200 million to the LNG industry.” The GPC will spend about $100 million on environmental offsets, with $20 million commissioned by the Federal Government for scientific research programs including the movement of sensitive marine life into national parks.
“The rest [of the money] is in the removal of some 5000 hectares of strategic land at Port Alma, which is very high in marine environment qualities, and put into national parks,” Mr Zussino said.

 

By JOSH DEL PINO

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