| Code: 4823 |

TIN news:  Ports Australia has released a peer reviewed scientific study with the title "Dredging and Australian Ports", which compares the outcomes of recent dredging projects with the environmental performance criteria set down for them.
 
The objective of the report is to provide an overview of the approval processes associated with dredging and at-sea placement of dredged material, the nature of environmental monitoring programs associated with recent port related dredging projects and, through a comparison of monitored environmental impacts with those approved by government, determines that recent port related dredging projects in northern Australia have performed well.
 
Many ports in northern Australia are located in sheltered and naturally shallow areas. However, shipping channels are declared in naturally deep-water areas wherever possible thus increasing shipping safety (viz: avoiding potentially severe environmental consequences of vessel groundings etc) and minimizing the need to undertake both initial capital and ongoing maintenance dredging works.
 
The expected future growth in world trade, and associated growth in global sea transport, will ensure the volume of cargo handled by Australian ports will increase. Subtropical and tropical regions of Queensland and Western Australia in particular are likely to continue to experience significant growth in bulk export resources trades (eg iron ore, coal and LNG).
 
Periodic maintenance dredging will also be required to remove sediments that are naturally transported, by waves or currents or down rivers and creeks, into the port channel and berth areas. Without maintenance dredging to maintain appropriate water depths, shoaling can occur with major implications in terms of a ship’s carrying capacity (hence trade value), port efficiency (hence cost of trade) and safety. The cost of importing and exporting goods would increase with additional costs being ultimately borne by the community.
 
The Environmental Challenges
Environmental risk is now far more effectively managed than in the past. Port related dredging is considerably more regulated than in the past to prevent and reduce environmental impacts to high value ecological communities. Over the past few decades, environmental regulations have become stricter, environmental impact assessment procedures have improved, and project-specific dredge management and mitigating measures are now standard components of a dredging project. Additionally, ports now have qualified environmental staff and have implemented environmental management systems to identify and manage environmental risk. Port dredging works are now carefully planned and monitored to proactively avoid and minimise environment impacts.
 
The acceptable level and extent of environmental impact is now clearly defined in government approvals for dredging and dredged material placement at sea. All major dredging projects are required to include environmental monitoring based on the latest scientific research to enable impacts to be managed during dredging and assessed following project completion.
 
Regulation and Legislation
Dredging in Australia is highly regulated and subject to international agreements, commonwealth and state legislative requirements, and local port rules.
 
All dredging in Australia must be consistent with the requirements of an international agreement to which Australia is a signatory known as the Protocol to the London Convention (previously known as the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972).
 
The London Protocol is one of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities and has been in force since 1975. Over 42 countries have adopted the Protocol. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) hosts the permanent Secretariat of the Protocol.
 
Dredging Monitoring Programs
Environmental monitoring of dredging and dredged material placement projects is vital for overall management of potential environmental impacts, stakeholder transparency and improved environmental management of dredging activities in future years.
 
Many projects are conducted in areas of high conservation value and effective monitoring and management of potential impacts must occur to ensure those values are not diminished.
 
Monitoring allows the accuracy of environmental predictions to be assessed and hence the effectiveness of the environmental impact and management processes. Monitoring dredging and dredged material placement provides information not only for regulators but also for the proponent, contractor, affected stakeholders and the general public.

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