Work on the final phase of the A$120m ($87m) Channel Risk and Optimisation Project (CROP) at the Port of Port Hedland in Western Australia is scheduled to begin in April.

Global dredging company Jan De Nul has been appointed to conduct the work, which is expected to be concluded in June.

Jan De Nul will remove the remaining high spots in the passing lane and shipping channel of the port.

The CROP project is designed to facilitate safe and efficient shipping at the Port of Port Hedland.

As part of the project, a refuge zone and an emergency passing lane to the current 42km unidirectional shipping channel will be developed.

The project will also see the elimination of high spots in the outer section of the shipping channel to optimise navigable depths.

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Last year, the port completed dredging of the refuge zone.

The CROP project, which is carried out in stages in line with annual maintenance dredging programmes, has received funding under the Port Improvement Rate (PIR) initiative.

PIR is a temporary levy charged on vessels calling at the Port of Port Hedland to fund capital improvements.

Western Australia Ports Minister Alannah MacTiernan said: “The CROP will bring significant tangible benefits to port users in addressing channel risk and enhancing safe and efficient shipping at the Port of Port Hedland.

“The CROP will ensure more efficient vessel access to the tidally restricted port.”

“The safety of staff, contractors and port users is an absolute priority, and the CROP will improve safety for vessels transiting the narrow, unidirectional channel.

“The CROP will ensure more efficient vessel access to the tidally restricted port, improving the service for all port users and supporting trade, industry and jobs in the Pilbara.”

Port of Port Hedland is currently the largest export port in Australia in terms of annual throughput.