US Navy ves­sels hes­i­tant to berth

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DOMANII CAMERON EX­CLU­SIVE domanii. cameron@ news. com. au

TWO US Navy ships are re­fus­ing to dock at Port of Townsville be­cause the chan­nel is too nar­row, spark­ing con­cerns for the fu­ture of the tourism and de­fence gate­way.

The Bul­letin un­der­stands the cap­tains of the USNS Charles Drew and USNS Richard E. Byrd are too “un­com­fort­able” to dock at the port, with the Richard E. Byrd now an­chored off Mag­netic Is­land.

The sup­ply lo­gis­tics ves­sels en­tered the port ear­lier this month.

SeaLink has been fer­ry­ing pas­sen­gers back and forth ev­ery two hours since Fri­day.

The sit­u­a­tion comes a month af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted $ 75 mil­lion to the widen­ing of the chan­nel, which is ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2022.

Port chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ra­nee Crosby said the port was hold­ing berth ap­pli­ca­tions for the Richard E. Byrd, but they had re­cently been can­celled.

“Feed­back we re­ceived was that the width of the chan­nel lead­ing into the … port was con­sid­ered very nar­row and the cap­tain pre­ferred to an­chor the ship and use ten­der equip­ment,” she said.

“Port of Townsville is cur­rently in the fi­nal stages of en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proval pro­cesses for the Port Ex­pan­sion Project, which im­por­tantly in­cludes chan­nel widen­ing to en­sure the safe pas­sage of larger ships – not only de­fence ves­sels, but com­mer­cial and cruise also.”

Ms Crosby said the State Gov­ern­ment had sought matched fed­eral fund­ing to kick­start the project.

SeaLink gen­eral man­ager Chris Briggs said both ves­sels brought valu­able dol­lars into the city.

“The char­ter work has been good for us, the ships have spent money in Townsville while ex­plor­ing what we have to of­fer,” he said.

“I’m sup­port­ive of the chan­nel widen­ing project but with the un­der­stand­ing that the dredge spoil is dis­posed of prop­erly.”

North­ern Aus­tralia Min­is­ter Se­na­tor Matt Cana­van said he was aware of the pro­posed widen­ing.

“We es­tab­lished the North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity to fund projects like this,” he said.

“We have yet to re­ceive a pro­posal from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment. I would wel­come an ap­pli­ca­tion from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment.”

North Queens­land Se­na­tor Ian Mac­don­ald said the port was a state gov­ern­ment- owned as­set.

“We said in the City Deal project that we would help look at ini­tia­tive fi­nanc­ing to cap­ture the wider eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the port,” he said. “They would be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for NAIF ( fund­ing).”

Se­na­tor Mac­don­ald said the port made “good prof­its” each year.

“But un­for­tu­nately they’re snaf­fled up by the State Gov­ern­ment and not rein­vested,” he said.

“I don’t think the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment should be bail­ing out a prof­itable state gov­ern­ment as­set.”

A spokesman for the De­part­ment of In­fra­struc­ture and Re­gional Devel­op­ment said the reg­u­la­tion and op­er­a­tion of ports, in­clud­ing the main­te­nance of ship­ping chan­nels, was a mat­ter for state and ter­ri­tory gov­ern­ments.

“The De­part­ment of In­fra­struc­ture and Re­gional Devel­op­ment does not pro­vide fund­ing for these pur­poses,” he said.

SeaLink will con­tinue to ferry pas­sen­gers un­til Fri­day.

The De­part­ment of De­fence did not pro­vide com­ment. Editorial, page 14

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.