A $120 million upgrade to the Port of Cairns has moved a step closer, after Queensland's independent Coordinator-General last week approved the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) subject to conditions.
The project involves upgrades at the Port of Cairns to improve access for larger ships, including cruise ships. It includes dredging to widen and deepen the existing outer shipping channel, widening and deepening of the existing inner harbour channel and upgrades to the existing cruise shipping wharves.
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick described the project as a game-changer for the Far North Queensland tourism industry that will support a significant increase in the size and number of cruise ships and other vessels that can berth in Cairns.
"The region will see the greatest benefit from passenger expenditure, port charges and associated supplies and servicing activity as the Cairns Shipping Development Project will allow for over 100 additional cruise ships to berth annually in the Port of Cairns by 2031," Mr Dick said.
"This will potentially result in a tripling of the number of passenger days spent in Cairns each year due to cruise ship tourism, being an increase of 225,000 passenger days each year by 2031. More significantly, the upgrade will enable mega class cruise ships up to 300m in length to berth at the port."
Mr Dick said that by 2031, a total of 183 cruise ships are predicted to visit Cairns with the help of the new channel, creating 2,730 direct and indirect full-time equivalent ongoing jobs in the region.
"The project will also create more than 195 direct full-time equivalent jobs on average during construction, including professional services and engineering jobs to upgrade wharves at the Port of Cairns, widen and deepen the existing Trinity Inlet shipping channel and install new navigational aids," he said.
"Major new opportunities will open up for local suppliers to meet the cruise ship operators' needs for goods and services."
Mr Dick said deeper channel access to the HMAS Cairns Navy base will also enhance the potential for the Royal Australian Navy's larger ships and US naval carriers to berth in Cairns, enabling future expansion of defence activities in the region. The increased channel depth and width will also improve the efficiency and safety of existing and future shipping operations.
Mr Dick said the Great Barrier Reef will be protected by a comprehensive set of conditions that Ports North must meet.
"The Coordinator-General has worked closely with Ports North and the Cairns Regional Council and listened to the local community through several rounds of public consultation to ensure the project responded to the State Government's Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 and the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan," he said.
"In his evaluation report, the Coordinator-General evaluated all the possible environmental impacts and sets comprehensive conditions to manage potential impacts on Trinity Inlet within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and state marine park. They include managing marine water quality, plant clearing and activity in the state marine park."
The Minister said the next step would be for the Commonwealth to support the project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Subject to Commonwealth environmental approvals, work is scheduled to commence in 2019.
More information about the project is available from the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning website at <https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/cairns-shipping-development-project.html>.