Channels House - Level 2, 235 Ryrie St Geelong, Vic 3220
Phone: +61 3 5225 3500

Geelong Dredging Program 2014

Australia depends on ports for its economic health.

While road and rail networks help distribute goods across the country, the bulk of our nation's imports and exports are carried by ship into ports including Geelong.
Shipping channels are our saltwater highways. And, just like vital land links, they need constant maintenance and improvement to remain safe and efficient for the continually evolving fleet and trades they service.

The Victorian Regional Channels Authority is carrying out a $9 million upgrade centred on its shipping lanes in Corio Bay over the next four months, with work scheduled for a July 28 start. The Geelong Dredging Program 2014 will ensure the Port of Geelong, Victoria's premier bulk cargo port, keeps its competitive edge and strong focus on safe navigation.

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VRCA investigations show a global trend in shipping to increasingly larger vessels to achieve economies of scale. The authority and the Port Phillip Sea Pilots, who carefully guide ships into the Port of Geelong, know even small increases in a ship's dimensions can have serious ramifications when navigating Corio Bay's narrow channels. The multi-million dollar improvements are a key to providing safe, efficient passage for the next generation of longer and wider ships to the busy port.

The Geelong Dredging Project 2014, funded by the VRCA, involves:

  • Dredging at City Bend, the right angle turn at the junction of Hopetoun and Corio channels that ships navigate on their way to and from Geelong's port. About 130,000 cubic metres of mainly sand, silt and soft clay will be removed from four small areas on the inside of the bend to widen the turn and aid safe navigation of ships.
  • Dredging of about 65,000 cubic metres of soft material at Corio Quay North No 4 Berth to boost its productivity and operational efficiency. The berth and its approach will be deepened by 1.3 metres to bring it into line with the main shipping channels, maintained at 12.3 metres. This will remove constraints on ships currently unable to load down to the maximum draught that can navigate the channels.

NZ-based Heron Construction Company will carry out the dredging work. Heron will use its backhoe dredger Machiavelli to excavate the material from the seabed 24 hours a day during the program, which will take up to 15 weeks to complete. Two split-hopper barges, manoeuvred by tugs, will transport the dredged material to an approved dredge material ground in Port Phillip Bay about six kilometres east of Point Wilson.

The dredge material ground has been used for previous projects, including the last major capital dredging works in the Geelong channel network in 1997.

The VRCA has selected specialist maritime contractor Waterway Constructions, from Williamstown, to remove, store and carry out maintenance work on four navigation beacons at City Bend during the last month of the project. Drysdale-based Elstone Diving Services, which has the specialist task of
removing and eventually replacing the lights on those four beacons, will also place temporary floating buoys at City Bend to aid navigation. Elstone will recover the buoys when the work is done. Waterway will then reinstate the original state-of-the-art beacons to define the widened channel's new boundary at the project's end.

Dredging is a routine part of maintaining and improving Geelong's shipping channels. It has occurred periodically during the past 150 years and is an important activity in ensuring the Port of Geelong and its channel network can operate at capacity now and in the future.

Geelong's shipping hub and the companies reliant on it generate billions of dollars for the region each year and provide jobs for more than 7000 people. It's an important gateway to the rest of the world for Victoria's wide-ranging businesses. And it helps keep the state's economic heart beating strongly.

The State Government recognises the Port of Geelong's importance to the Victorian economy and has thrown its support behind the dredging program, calling it a key part in plans to increase channel capacity as the port heads towards a forecasted doubling of trade by 2030. Premier Denis Napthine and Minister for Ports David Hodgett announced the widening of City Bend in August last year, while the Corio Quay North work got the government green light in June this year.

The Geelong Dredging Project 2014 is governed by an approved Environmental Management Plan and dredging contractors must follow a strict set of rules that ensure the protection of Corio Bay's marine environment. Monitoring after the 1997 major capital dredging project, which removed 20 times the volume of material earmarked for the current work, revealed no long-term health effect on the bay's marine environment.

The dredging schedule will not impact on commercial ships or the port's daily operation but recreational bay users must observe a 200-metre exclusion zone around major dredging equipment as part of a raft of strict safety rules.

The VRCA acknowledges people have a genuine interest in Corio Bay. The authority set up a community group to discuss its dredging plans several months ago and will continue to consult with members and port stakeholders as work progresses.

Community Feedback

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Media Release

Further Information

vrca dredging video

Notice to Mariners

Map of Areas and Drawings

Reference Material

Dredging Vessels