Port of Townsville in Queensland, Australia, has awarded a contract for the $232m Channel Upgrade project to Hall Contracting, a privately owned dredging, civil, and marine construction company.

The port said that it is Channel Upgrade project’s biggest contract.

The contract includes reclamation of 62ha of land through beneficial reuse of dredged material and capital dredging to expand 14.9km of sea channels over two years.

It follows construction work over the past 18 months to build a 2.2km rock perimeter wall to receive the material.

Queensland-based Hall Contracting has partnered with Townsville-based Pacific Marine Group for dredging and reclamation work.

Port of Townsville CEO Ranee Crosby said: “Hall Contracting has presented the best offer to complete the works. Their strong commitment to local industry and First Nations people’s participation, as well as employment and learning opportunities for tertiary students, apprentices and trainees, presents significant opportunities for our region. Over the course of the project, they will provide meaningful training across a range of vocations, including vessel crew, marine engineers, diesel fitters, hydraulic fitters, boilermakers, earthmoving operators, and dredge operators.”

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Hall Contracting CEO Cameron Hall said: “We regard this project as one of the most iconic dredging projects in Australia’s history and an important step in the development of both the Port of Townsville and the city itself. Our recently acquired backhoe dredge, Woomera, is the largest Australian-owned dredge of its kind and will arrive in Townsville to commence works next year.”

The Channel Upgrade project will broaden the current shipping channel from 92m to 180m at the inshore end, narrowing to 120m wide in the Sea Channel.

The expansion will enable movement of bigger cargo, cruise, and defence vessels at the Port of Townsville.

Crosby continued: “Channel widening is critical for Townsville Port to grow as Northern Australia’s trade hub, and to continue servicing communities in North Queensland. Our aim is to deliver competitive solutions for customers and more economic supply chains for retailers, operating across the region by establishing a port-of-call option preferred by shipping lines. Townsville Port makes sense for the climate and economy with reduced carbon emissions for freight, lower costs of general goods, and improved resilience for Northern Queensland in disasters.”

Furthermore, the port has committed $17m for environmental monitoring and management programmes.

An independent technical advisory committee will also offer expert oversight of the monitoring programmes during the process of capital dredging.

Hall Contracting is expected to start capital dredging in May next year.

The Channel Upgrade is a joint project of the Queensland and Australian governments and Port of Townsville.

The Channel Upgrade initiative was signed in December 2016 as part of the Townsville City Deal.