A PROJECT to expand the Lyttelton shipping channel is finished, ensuring the harbour is prepared for a future with larger vessels.

But the amount of dredging required was said to have been reduced due to the use of dynamic under keel clearance technology, maximising the accuracy of shipping draft calculations.

The Fairway Dredge completed the project late last year.

LPC chief executive Peter Davie said the new system would improve the safety of all commercial shipping movements.

“Container ships have doubled in size over the last 10 years and the trend toward bigger ships continues,” Mr Davie said.

“We have enlarged the existing shipping channel to provide access to larger ships and support Lyttelton’s future as the South Island’s major international trade gateway.”

The container terminal’s maximum draught is now 13.3metres at Cashin Quay 2 and 3 East.

Mr Davie said one of the biggest improvements was in terms of visibility.

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The old main channel leading light was in the hills above Governors Bay, but the new sector light is 6km closer to the end of the channel and is expected to be more visible during misty and drizzly conditions.

“In addition to all the physical structures, computer generated virtual marks will appear on the screens of vessels using electronic charts or chart plotters equipped with an AIS receiver,” Mr Davie said.

“These marks show the position of the pilot boarding area off Godley Head, the edge of the channel and the limits of the dredged swinging basin off Cashin Quay.”

Under-keel clearance technology specialists OMC International helped LPC reduce the volume of dredging required to upgrade the port’s entrance channel through use of Dynamic Under-Keel Clearance technology from Australian specialists OMC.

OMC’s work in Lyttelton earned them Support Service Provider of the Year at the 2018 Dredging and Port Construction Awards in Amsterdam.

The DUKC program links to the Portable Pilot Units (PPU), to calculate and continuously monitor the under keel clearance of large draught vessels as they move through the channel.

A weather buoy and further sensors in the harbour is to analyse swell and wind information to provide a “tidal window” for each vessel. “We are thrilled to be at the cutting edge of modern navigation, and although it has been a steep learning curve for our team, their ability to adapt and embrace this new technology has been fantastic,” Mr Davie said.

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