US Navy puts port short­fall in sharp fo­cus

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

THE Port of Townsville should be a hive of ac­tiv­ity at the mo­ment, brim­ming with US de­fence force mem­bers. In­stead, two US Navy ships, USNS

Charles Drew and USNS Richard E. Byrd, which are here for ac­tiv­i­ties around the Tal­is­man Sabre joint op­er­a­tion, have opted to an­chor off Mag­netic Is­land, with their cap­tains un­com­fort­able nav­i­gat­ing the port’s nar­row chan­nel.

It’s an em­bar­rass­ment on the world stage for Townsville and needs to be rec­ti­fied as soon as pos­si­ble.

Our fu­ture part­ner­ship with the US Navy could be at risk, as the in­con­ve­nience of not be­ing able to dock at the port could push them south, to the larger Port of Bris­bane.

The po­ten­tial threat of the US Navy turn­ing its back on the city should be a se­ri­ous wake- up call.

It should also be re­mem­bered that any fur­ther deals with large cruise ship com­pa­nies would also hinge on their abil­ity to dock at the port.

If we can’t keep up with the in­creas­ing size of ships, we will get left be­hind, brushed aside for larger ports.

Through­out the city’s his­tory, the port has been a vi­tal part of our econ­omy and it un­der­pins much of our pros­per­ity.

Un­less the chan­nel- widen­ing project is given ur­gent pri­or­ity, the city could lose out on mil­lions pour­ing into the econ­omy.

It is time to get on with the port ex­pan­sion. The State Gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted $ 75 mil­lion for the $ 193 mil­lion ex­pan­sion project.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment needs to step up and match the state fund­ing to en­sure the fu­ture pros­per­ity of the port.

Isn’t fund­ing projects such as the port ex­pan­sion the whole point of cre­at­ing the North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity?

It is high time those funds are put to use on keep­ing dol­lars in North Queens­land.

The works are ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2022, with the devel­op­ment await­ing the fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proval process.

Port of Townsville has been metic­u­lous when it comes to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

The dredge spoil will be moved to land, the reef will not be af­fected and any other con­cerns have been dealt with.

This is the kind of project the North needs to keep mov­ing for­ward.

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