Single channel in harbour limits access, conference hears

GARY Carter heads up the forward think tank for Gladstone Ports Corporation, looking at how to get the maximum use out of the existing port while planning for the growing export industry.

He said Gladstone had been recognised as one of the most strategic ports but it still had limitations, including a single channel for access.

Mr Carter, the GPC's port planning and development manager, said operating constraints of the single channel meant there was a limited capacity to allow vessels to pass each other.

"There's also a risk of channel blockages and the need for tidal assistance for deep draft vessels," he said.

Mr Carter said deepening was required all over the channels, but duplicating the channel would avoid shutting the port in the event of a vessel grounding.

"Having double the opportunity for vessels to move also means a loss of 50% production rather than 100%," he said.

Mr Carter said the committed trades including the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal would see cape-sized vessels carrying 84 million tonnes per annum, while the LNG industry would see 8.5 to 10Mtpa.

"Their vessels while long are fairly shallow, so they're lifting around 150,000 cubic metres of gas but it's only about an 85,000mt vessel," he said.

He said the GPC had undertaken a number of initiatives with the LNG companies on how they gained access to the channel.

"We've done real-time simulations to determine vessel impacts," he said.

The port is operating at around a 50-60% of total operating capacity.