Dredging opens navy doors
The Port of Broome has welcomed a State Government invitation for the US Navy to use the Kimberley town as a northern Australian hub in the wake of a multimillion-dollar dredging program that will give ships all-tide access.
Premier Mark McGowan recently announced $7 million in dredging works to remove obstacles in the port’s approach channel to improve access by bigger vessels and secure more cruise ship visits.
WA Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia said he “rolled out the welcome mat” during discussions with high-level US officials on the sidelines of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Honolulu.
Kimberley Ports Authority chief executive Kevin Schellack said the project, once approved and completed, would provide a safe berth for friendly navies or large shipping.
“Dredging will open the door for the navy, what this channel optimising will do is enable vessels to come and go at any tide,” he said.
“They (Royal Australian Navy) come here regularly — (however) for the defence vessels in particular they would not come to port, if they could not get out at a moment’s notice.
“It will enable the American and Indonesian navy to come in for rest and relaxation when they are in the area — anyone that’s out there that’s friendly to Australia and needs a good berth for vessels.”
The port has a history of supporting Australian naval vessels with 51 docking since 2014, including 17 last financial year.
Shire of Broome president Harold Tracey said that the US Navy using the Broome Port was not something that had been considered by the council, but it could potentially bring additional activity to Broome and that any discussion around this would be welcome.
Mr Schellack said the channel upgrade was in a race against time before two Carnival Australia cruise ships were scheduled to arrive in October next year.
“It’s quite a big process to ensure we are doing the channel in a responsible way,” he said.
“After approvals, bringing in the dredging equipment will be about four to five days for a very small removal of the rock.”
Kimberley Ports chief Kevin Schellack.