NEW speed limits for the Williamstown port area, declared yesterday by the Victorian Government, are unlikely to affect commercial shipping.

Ports minister Melissa Horne announced an expansion of the five-knot speed zone in waters around the local port, coming into effect from today [30 April].

The government said “bustling maritime traffic” in Hobson’s Bay, adjacent to “one of the nation’s busiest ports (Melbourne)” had prompted safety concerns to be raised by the community. A wave, wash and surge study reviewed the effects of increased and often unexpected wake surges that are impacting local marinas and those on the water. The four-month study used radar, water, boat motion and pressure sensors as well as cameras to collect data.

Safe Transport Victoria approved an application submitted by Parks Victoria to expand the speed restriction zone for boats in the area near the Port of Melbourne. The speed restriction zone will soon apply to all vessels in the waters south-west of the Williamstown Channel, from the Warmies boat ramp to Gellibrand Pier.

Parks Victoria will install new signage and update existing guides to ensure waterway users are aware of the change and will work with the other agencies on further responses to the study.

A Notice to Mariners issued today by Ports Victoria clarifies that the main shipping channel to and from the River Yarra and the access to Webb Dock and Gellibrand Pier are not affected by the newly gazetted restrictions. The speed limit will apply to pilot launches, river ferries and other craft that use the piers and jetties on the Williamstown foreshore, however.

Port of Williamstown Action Group president Michael Neumann said wake surges had been hitting marinas hard and hurting local businesses that rely on the Williamstown waters. “We welcome the expansion of the five-knot rule and will continue to advocate for safer waters for all users,” he said.