FUTURE CHANNEL: A large drilling outfit is working off the coast of Tannum Sands. It has been contracted by GPC for future channel duplication.
FUTURE CHANNEL: A large drilling outfit is working off the coast of Tannum Sands. It has been contracted by GPC for future channel duplication. Mike Richards

Drilling rig tests route for second harbour channel

IF you cast your eyes to the horizon off the Tannum Sands beach, you'll spot something in the distance that resembles a War of the Worlds movie prop.

An offshore driller, contracted by Gladstone Ports Corporation, is now testing suitable pathways for the harbour's second channel.

However, a GPC spokesperson stressed it had no immediate need to progress with development or dredging in the near future.

"The geotechnical investigations currently under way in Gladstone harbour are one small part of an overall environmental impact statement process for potential future development within the port," she said.

"It is necessary to undertake the preparation of an EIS for the potential future duplication of the Gatcombe and Golding Cutting channels."

The operation is drilling into the seabed floor, taking samples and studying the properties of material to be dredged in the future.

Not only does this information provide an insight into how to minimise harm for the seabed, but to establish what equipment is required to carry out the dredging.

Drilling will continue throughout all of next month, with the accompanying barge towed into position by the tug Akira, and then jacked up into position on spud legs.

It is anticipated that the barge will remain stationary at each site for two days before moving on.

The driller and barge will move closer to the coastline and become more visible from shore in coming weeks.

According to recent federal legislation, the GPC will need to dispose of any dredge material outside the World Heritage Area that is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Government policy has caused the works to take longer than expected.

A preliminary document will be presented to the relevant government agencies by September of this year.

The final document will meet a deadline of July 2016. From there, public scrutiny will be invited.

Once a period of consultation has taken place, dredging operations could begin.

This will not occur before the end of 2016.

What's going on out there:

  • A jack-up barge is used to minimise impacts of the sea state on the operation of the drill rig
  • When the equipment is in place over the nominated site, it is jacked up clear of tidal influence to obtain a stable work platform
  • A conventional drilling rig is then used to drill into the seabed to recover samples through to the depth of potential dredging
  • In this instance, drilling with be undertaken to a depth of relative length - 20.0m
  • The barge is moved using small tugs and work boats


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