THE Commonwealth government announced it would contribute $75m to the Townsville Channel Capacity Upgrade, meaning work can begin soon.
The $193m project involves widening of the shipping channels to accommodate larger ships and is the first stage of works under the $1.64b Townsville Port Expansion plan. The Queensland government has also committed funding for the project ($75m), as has the Port of Townsville ($43m).
The federal government approved the environmental impact statement for the project back in February.
In a joint media release, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and transport and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack said the investment would ensure the Port of Townsville remains globally competitive.
“We want Townsville to have a port capable of hosting larger cargo and passenger ships, helping to build a stronger economy in North Queensland,” they said in the statement.
“The current size of the channel restricts access to the port, forcing larger vessels to bypass Townsville, including cruise ships, limiting North Queensland’s critical role in the supply chain.”
Mr Morrison and Mr McCormack said cruise ships carrying more than 3000 passengers would be able to access the port, up from 1500.
“More than doubling the size of container ships which can enter the port will allow for goods imported and exported and maximise the capacity of existing infrastructure,” the joint statement read.
“This will mean reductions in the costs of imported goods on the table in Townsville, and remove up to 8230 B-Double trucks per year of the roads between Brisbane and Townsville and reduce congestion on our roads and improve safety.”
Port of Townsville Limited Chair Renita Garard said that the funding announcement by the federal government was a significant milestone in the port’s 154-year history.
“Having certainty that the port can accept larger ships is a catalyst to attract and retain investment into the region, just as the port has underpinned economic development and growth of this region since 1864,” she said.
Port CEO Ranee Crosby said the channel widening was essential for growth of the port, ensuring goods produced in the region can get access to the Asia-Pacific and beyond, and that the everyday items people buy like food, clothes and electrical goods find their way onto retail shelves in North Queensland.
“Ships are getting bigger, making channel widening vital,” she said.
“Bigger ships coming to Townsville will mean lower freight costs, better connectivity to global markets, as well as allowing larger cruise ships to visit the city, which will further boost cruise tourism in the region.
“After more than ten years in the planning, our team is ready to start delivering the biggest investment project in our history.”