IN THE sleepy part of Victoria is a port that’s becoming very important to the shipping industry. The ships making their way down to Barry Beach Marine Terminal aren’t just any old ships; in the coming years BBMT expects to welcome the largest construction vessel in the world.

BBMT at Corner Inlet in southern Victoria is transitioning from a small, non-commercial port, to playing a valuable role in Australia’s maritime industry. The terminal recently welcomed the 126-metre-long general cargo ship BBC Everest.

It was chartered by ExxonMobil (Esso Australia) to deliver important infrastructure cargo for the Kipper Compressor Project on the Tuna Platform in the Bass Strait.

The cargo was made up of several heavy-lift platform modules as well as specialised equipment.

Qube Energy’s BBMT site manager Matt Walker said the heaviest lift of the vessel was 105 tonnes and the work had to be millimetre perfect.

“It was a good 12 months in planning,” Mr Walker said.

“The vessels that normally come in and out of our port are normally all-weather production support vessels for oil and gas and they don’t require tugs and pilots.

 “It becomes complicated because we’ve got a narrow swing base and channel to navigate through.

“It was well within our capabilities, and we did all the planning in the world. We thought we’d have to shift the vessel five times, but with some creative input from BBC we got that down to one vessel shift.”


BBC Everest had previously sailed from Thailand, cleared biosecurity, pratique and border force at Henderson in Western Australia, then crossed the Great Australian Bight to pick up the pilot off Port Phillip Heads. “Esso asks, ‘can we do this?’ and we then do a big risk assessment on whatever is presented to us, and that risk assessment culminates in a letter of approval under the conditions of how the ship can arrive,” Gippsland Ports harbour master Bevis Hayward told DCN.

He said BBC Everest arrived at Corner Inlet on 3 February. Discharge took four days and the ship sailed for its return voyage on 7 February.

“How we got it done is me speaking to God and making sure the weather is good on the day,” Mr Hayward laughed.

“That’s why you couldn’t use Barry Beach Inlet to schedule ships in each week, because you need absolutely perfect conditions to make it happen.”

The conditions were almost too good for the BBC Everest’s visit in early February; the area was filled with recreational fisherman who were chasing snapper on the glassy water.

But mother nature played an important role in bringing the vessel into the terminal, where 5.2 metres is the shallowest part of the channel.

“We can use the tide to do the job,” Mr Hayward said.

“We brought her in in the afternoon when we had a 2.5-metre tide.

“BBC have had two ships in here now. The idea of doing this job is to get ships in here and make shipping happen.”


BBMT has been the major operations base for the Gippsland Basin offshore oil and gas industry since operations began in 1966. There are currently four long-term offshore support vessels operating from the terminal.

When special project ships arrive and depart BBMT, plenty is taken into account including the vessel size, draught and its manoeuvring capabilities due to the restricted width and depth of the Barry Beach channel and the terminal swing basin and berths.

Pilotage service provider AMS Group supplied a pilotage package for the arrival and departure of BBC Everest after previously doing the same for the Eemslift Nadine in October.

Gippsland Ports supplied a local knowledge training package for the issue of local knowledge certificates for two pilot launch masters and two tug masters. Towage services were provided by Engage Marine on the tug Engage Renegade.

And the BBC Everest was required to arrive and depart during daylight hours.

“Pressure is definitely there, and we always have a back-up plan and we had two tides on that day,” Mr Hayward said.

“It has a bearing on what we’re going to be doing in the future.

“Now that we have again demonstrated the capability of the port and facilities to take special project ships on an occasional basis, Gippsland Ports expects further interest will follow.

“In the medium-term, port visits for special project ships will need to be assessed logistically due to future BBMT wharf upgrades planned by Qube Energy,” Mr Hayward said.


The offshore support vessels operating to and from BBMT have increased in size during the past decade. They used to range from 50 metres to 75 metres.

“Typical manoeuvrability of these ships was through conventional twin screw propulsion, mainly with a single bow thruster,” Mr Hayward said.

Since 2013, the introduction of superior manoeuvrability technology has allowed for bigger ship sizes with higher lift capacity, and BBMT is now assessing vessels ranging from 84 metres to 95 metres.

“This is due to the introduction of Azimuth propulsion thrusters and up to three bow thrusters, all linked into high performance dynamic position keeping technology,” Mr Hayward said.

Special project ships have also increased in size, and the port would require capital dredging to handle bigger ships more frequently.

“The inlet is a wetland surrounded by a national park so to do the dredging would be really difficult,” he said.

“You need to know your ports and you need to know the people you’re dealing with.

“To maintain the channel that’s already there and use that for the operational and maintenance side of the offshore wind farms is a real possibility.”

Qube’s director of corporate affairs Ben Pratt said the company was exploring further development of BBMT to support an operations and maintenance facility for the offshore wind industry.

“Indeed, a potential role for BBMT in supporting the development of this new industry is recognised by the Victorian government in its most recent offshore wind implementation statement,” Mr Pratt said.

“Qube is currently conducting a range of technical studies which will inform a revised EES [environmental effects statement] application to support the development of an O&M [operations and maintenance] facility at Barry Beach.”

Qube said it will be able to submit documentation later this year, subject to the completion of the technical studies.

“This is in line with the timeline outlined by the Victorian government for the development of offshore wind and will ensure that BBMT is well placed to support the significant O&M activity that will be required,” Mr Pratt said.

This article appeared in the March 2024 edition of DCN Magazine