PORT of Brisbane is at the helm of an initiative to clean up the Brisbane River – a trial project has been accepted into the IAPH World Ports Sustainability Program’s sustainability awards.

The project is driven by the development of the Solar Powered Automatic River Cleaner (SPARC) unit. It is designed to remove litter from waterways before it reaches the ocean.

It eventuated through a partnership with environmental organisation Ocean Crusaders and stakeholders including Brisbane City Council, IFM Investors and RDT Engineers.

Designed and trialled in Brisbane, the SPARC unit will target the mouth of the Brisbane River, preventing rubbish from travelling into the ecologically significant Moreton Bay.  

The project has been described as an important local step toward reducing marine debris in the world’s oceans, with the success of the trial supporting its future development on a broader scale.

Port of Brisbane environment manager Craig Wilson said PBPL and Ocean Crusaders together secured a $40,000 community grant from IFM Investors, a PBPL securityholder.

He said the grant funded two stages of the SPARC trial, the first of which was a litter clean-up campaign to understand litter deposition in the area.

The findings provided baseline data to support further assessments of the unit as part of the broader trial.

The second stage of the trial included the design and construction of the SPARC unit and subsequent in-water trials.

“This project strongly aligns with PBPL’s goal to lead innovative catchment management solutions throughout South East Queensland,” Mr Wilson said.  

“The successful development and three-month in-water trial of the unit has proven it could be a safer and more sustainable way to remove litter from the Brisbane River, before it travels out into Moreton Bay, compared to manual litter collections.

“We’re delighted that it is now performing well at its home near the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal, at the river mouth.”

Mr Wilson said PBPL hopes the trial project will lead to the development and placement of additional SPARC units in both Brisbane River and the broader South East Queensland catchment network.

“We’ve always believed that the greater the take-up of innovative catchment management solutions, the better the outcomes for industry, the community, and the environment,” he said.

“We know many of Australia’s ports are very proactive in the environmental management space and we regularly share our experiences and learnings with them.”

The IAPH World Ports Sustainability Program aims to empower ports around the world to foster sustainable value in their respective communities and regions.

The program has also recognised Port of Brisbane’s beneficial reuse of dredge material, its offsite stormwater management initiative, and migratory shorebird monitoring initiative.