From 2015 to 2017, we undertook an extensive research project to investigate the most sustainable way to manage accumulated sediment in and around the Port of Hay Point.
Left unmanaged, natural sediment fills up port navigational infrastructure, impacting the depth necessary for safe loading, manoeuvring and transit of ships. A reduced ability to effectively load ships can have a substantial economic impact on the region that the port supports.
We are the only port authority in the world to operate three ports in a World Heritage Area. It is a responsibility we take very seriously and we seek to lead sustainable port management.
Our innovative sediment management approach has been widely acknowledged and a similar framework is now applied in the Department of Transport and Main Road’s Maintenance Dredging Strategy for Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Ports. This is applicable to all ports operating in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
We conducted the research with our terminal operators, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal.
A Technical Advisory Consultative Committee (TACC) was formed, comprising representatives from the government, scientific and environmental organisations, businesses and the community.
A lot of previous sediment management research has focused on whether the sediment is clean of contaminants and where it can be safely disposed of.
Our sustainable sediment management study looked at this too, but also examined how and why sediment accumulates, and explored ways to reduce the build-up in navigational areas in the first place.
Additionally, we took steps to evaluate potential reuse of marine sediments. For each potential reuse or relocation option, we sought to demonstrate how environmental risks, human health, economics, and future challenges have been considered.
Our research had five key objectives:
We now better understand how sediment moves at the Port of Hay Point. This enables us to forecast short- and long-term maintenance dredging requirements. It has also given us a robust and transparent method to define sediment disposal options.
More specifically, our findings include:
We are applying for the necessary permits to proactively undertake maintenance dredging at the Port of Hay Point when needed, subject to weather events.
In August 2017, we established an advisory group of key scientific experts to begin work on a feasibility study into the beneficial reuse of dredged materials for habitat restoration and how we might trial this option in the future.