Australian Ports News articles

The February 2017 issue of Australian Ports News featured the Port of Townsville. I was commissioned to write four stories on it ranging from a CEO’s overview to a berth upgrade and a new ship unloading/loading solution for Sun Metals. 

In addition, I reported back on progress of a jetty and conveyor reconstruction at Eden Port in NSW and the building and delivery by Hart Marine of the first 17.3m Pantocarene-designed pilot boat in Australia. I have included the Townsville Port CEO’s Overview on this page. The other stories are available to read in a PDF you can download by clicking the button below.

Preparing the Port of Townsville for the future                            

The Port of Townsville is the largest general cargo and container handling port in Northern Australia and has a proud history of serving the region since 1864.

It is run by Port of Townsville Limited (POTL) led by CEO Ranee Crosby and is in a state of continuous improvement and expansion. Ms Crosby said that POTL was committed to providing a facility which would serve the needs of all stakeholders now and in the future

She said that future demands on the port would increase and that the Townsville Port Expansion Project plan had been devised in 2007 to take the projected growth into account and lay out a program for upgrading existing facilities and building new infrastructure.

“The aim of POTL is to identify future needs, conduct the necessary Environmental Impact Assessments and obtain approval for projects far enough in advance so they can be delivered as needed to avoid the port becoming a bottleneck in the regional supply chain,” she said.

One of the first major projects, completed in 2012, was the $53-million Townsville Port Access Road providing direct access from the port to the regional highway network. This routed heavy traffic away from residential areas and allowed the use of 53m triple road trains which improved transport efficiencies to and from the port.

Another project was the upgrade of Berth 10 for Defense use and to cater for the ever-growing number of visiting cruise liners. At the berth’s opening in October, 2013, Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston said that the berth would support the navy’s new Helicopter Landing Dock (LHD) vessels as well as other RAN ships and visiting warships from other nations.

Ms Crosby said that Berth 10 was an important facility for the port and that its timely completion would not only support the military in their mission but would also become a major factor in attracting more cruise liners with all the economic benefits associated with greatly increased volumes of visitors.

The next major development  at the port was an $85-million upgrade to Berth 8 which is mostly being used by Glencore and Incitec Pivot and was jointly funded by them and POTL. The 100-year-old berth had been equipped with 40-year-old shiploading equipment and the upgrade, along with new shiploaders, effectively doubled its capacity .

The port’s program to upgrade and extract the maximum benefit from its existing infrastructure has received wide recognition including winning the Svitzer Australian Port or Terminal of the Year award in 2016, for the second year running.

Currently underway at the port is a $42.7-million project to upgrade Berth 4 which involved the demolition of Berths 6&7 to provide the room to extend Berth 4’s quay line seaward by 7m to line up with Berth 2&3’s. The project has an expected completion date in December and will provide many benefits including doubling the port’s capacity to handle containerised cargo.

The first major project under the PEP is the harbour entrance widening project which will hopefully begin in 2018. The 14km harbour entrance channel is to be widened from 92m to 180m to accommodate vessels up to 300m long which currently have to bypass Townsville.

Other projects in future will involve boosting the number of berths as required and, according Ms Crosby, POTL is totally committed to anticipate these needs and deliver them timeously.

“The future is very bright for Northern Australia with Townsville expected to play a major part and the port will be key to the process. We take that responsibility seriously and are committed to growing and providing the facilities required,” she said.

  • Project type: Magazine articles
  • Skills needed: Writing, interviewing, client liasion
  • Customer: Australian Ports News
  • Project date: November 2016 / January 2017
  • Link to issue:

Australian Ports News articles

Australian Ports News portfolio header

I was commissioned to write four stories for the November/December 2016 issue of Australian Ports News. They ranged from a woodchip mill’s response to their export jetty being destroyed in a storm to a new pilot boat for Port Philip Sea Pilots. The stories are available to read and you can download a PDF by clicking the button below.

  • Project type: Magazine articles
  • Skills needed: Writing, interviewing, client liasion
  • Customer: Australian Ports News
  • Project date: October/November 2016
  • Link to issue:

Editorial for Australian Ports News

Kestrel takes off

 View the magazine submission (PDF) and as it appeared: Page 1 & Page 2

Sydney Ports Corporation took delivery of the Kestrel a new state-of-the-art pilot boat at Port Kembla on October 1, 2014.

The vessel, a Pantocarene-designed 15.6m HM ORC 15.6HR5 fast pilot boat, had been built for the client by Hart Marine at their yard in Melbourne. According to Hart Marine General Manager Graeme Taylor, the vessel is the latest and best of a string of pilot boats built at the yard for clients across Australia.

“The ORC pilot boats we have built over the years have been carving out a reputation for reliability, comfort and seaworthiness among their users and operators and, with the Kestrel, we have surpassed ourselves in reducing cabin noise by a further 3Db to a comfortable 68Db which, together with the resiliently mounted cabin, leads to unparalleled levels of operator comfort,” Mr Taylor said.

Construction of the Kestrel began in November 2013 and she was launched in Melbourne on September 8, 2014. Then followed a rigorous program of sea trials including testing maximum, cruising and transfer speeds and to certify fuel consumption. In addition, the vessel’s compasses were swung and she was subjected to a crash stop and steering test.

One of the most important tests was to check her stability curve to ensure that she will self-right if that is ever required. The tests were conducted by Hart Marine experts, including Mr Taylor, who were then joined by the coxswains who will pilot the vessel at Port Kembla for the delivery journey north from Melbourne.

Kestrel was designed to incorporate exceptional levels of usability and safety even in the most extreme conditions. She is surveyed to carry two crew and six pilots and is fully self-righting in the event she ever capsizes. The wheelhouse is well thought out with comfortable seating for 6 persons and a command chair and station amidships with excellent all-round vision. Olectric Systems supplied the Furuno electronics package including radar, echo sounder and plotter and Icom radios – all sited in a central console with everything being convenient and at hand for the coxswain.

The vessel has a cabin with forward-sloping windows to minimise heat transmission to the cabin interior. She is equipped with substantial Trelleborg fendering around her hull, as well as cabin-mounted grab rails and everything required for the safe and speedy exchange of personnel between the boat and large vessels underway.

Safety equipment was supplied by RFD and includes a six-person RFD life raft sited to port on the aft deck. The vessel was equipped with another potentially life-saving piece of equipment in the form of a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera which is able to detect the heat given off by human beings and track their position in the sea, making it possible for her to recover them from the stern-mounted MOB platform.

The vessel is powered by twin C18 700hp Caterpillar diesel motors delivering power to two Mikado 750mm propellers through remote-mount MGX5135A gear boxes. These will give Kestrel a top speed of 28.5 knots and more than ample power to tackle any conditions she will meet.
The ORC craft offer a particularly stable platform and integral to this is the unique hull design which has oversized rudders and wide trim-tabs that deliver outstanding manoeuvrability and sea-keeping characteristics. The hulls are light but super-strong and made from resin-infused E-glass with carbon fibre frames.

The design fundamental making the ORC pilot boats unique are their wave-piercing beak hulls which evolved from years of tank testing and sea trials by Pantocarene and combine the characteristics of planing and semi-planing hulls. Vertical acceleration is reduced when compared to typical semi-planing hulls, with the best results being obtained at high speed.

In following seas, the beak hulls behave better than traditional planing or semi-planing hulls. The feature imparts inherent roll damping and the vessel slows only moderately as its beak bow pierces the next wave. The importance of this feature cannot be overstated with pilots and crews of the craft reporting that the design offers a much smoother ride and greatly reduced levels of fatigue. Many also report that, although they had experienced sea-sickness on older-style pilot boats, the new design has worked to virtually eliminate it.

Noise and vibration in the crew cabin are further reduced by the composite materials used in construction, the fact that the wheelhouse is resilient-mounted and that Kestrel’s twin 750mm five-blade propellers have the effect of reducing cavitation and noise.

Mr Taylor said that Hart Marine staff were proud of the pilot boats they built and that they were Australian through and through, being built by Australians for Australian ports using components sourced in the country. He said that the already great design provided by Pantocarene was constantly being tweaked and improved by Hart Marine after regular consultations with clients including Port Philip Sea Pilots who were located in close proximity to Harts and who had long experience of operating the craft in the extreme conditions of the Bass Strait.

One other of the prime selling points of the Hart Marine-built pilot boats, said Mr Taylor, is their estimated 35-year lifespan and the fact that they will have a resale value long after vessels with conventional metal hulls would have deteriorated to the point where they would have to be scrapped.

The craft have performed impeccably even in extreme sea conditions and this has led directly to a number of new orders which are currently in production. These include another Orc 18 for Port Phillip Sea Pilots and two vessels for Svitzer which are destined for service at Barrow Island and Wheatstone.