Not many ships, but plenty of dredges!

Bayside residents down south are getting mightily sick of the sight, noise and smell of two massive dredges and their support vessels grinding away day and night.


The Bay is constantly buzzing with the jumbo-ised Queen of the Netherlands, the Cornelis Zanen and now a strange looking barge with crane has turned up, often being towed around by a Tug boat. Regular beach goers have noted they are now being subjected to lungs full of exhaust fumes, not fresh air on their morning walk on the beach – not surprising as the dredges are only two or three kilometres off shore.


QoN close to McCrae. 17th July 2009

Image J. Warfe

It’s bad news for us 3 million people who live around the coastline of the Bay that recent overseas studies have shown that health risks of shipping pollution have been grossly underestimated. One study estimates that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars[1].

US academic research has shown that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330 billion per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. Consequently, in April, the US government introduced a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.


The QoN shows off it plume of sludge and exhaust

The Age 2008


A new Danish study adds to this picture. It suggests that shipping emissions cost the Danish health service almost £5 billion a year, mainly treating cancers and heart problems. A previous study estimated that 1,000 Danish people die prematurely each year because of shipping pollution.

The curiously named High Courage polluting inner city Melbourne.

Image P. Crotty. 2008

You’ve got to be worried what our exposure to shipping pollution is, given shipping lanes are very close to the coastline in both the south and north of the Bay. Having two dredges working 24 hours a day so close to our shoreline only adds to the alarming health risk already posed by the shipping industry. 

There’s plenty of talk too about the noise from the dredges, especially at night when the eerie sounds of the dredges hydraulics have been likened to the loading bay of a space ship being lowered and raised at close range. Certainly not conducive to a good nights sleep! Indeed, we’ve heard of one person who has had to move her bed to the rear of the house and take sleeping pills to get to sleep above the noise of the dredges.


Anyway, the ceaseless movement, noise and pollution from the dredges is about the only shipping activity being seen on the Bay since the “global financial crisis” hit….. We were pretty sure that less and less container ships are coming and going, and our observations were confirmed in a recent Age article, reporting that in order to save their jobs, Port of Melbourne wharfies have agreed to take extended leave in the face of falling container throughput at the port. But hang on - It’s not that long since the PoMC was telling us all, including the wharfies, that it was channel deepening that would save everybody’s jobs! See:


Now it seems channel deepening has become an unnecessary and bloody expensive side show. Surely there were more important things for government to spend $1billion on….A hospital or two? Schools? Improved public transport, preparing our coastline for climate change? 


Amazing isn’t it that the PoMC and Mr. Brumby are getting away with talking rubbish with hardly a peep from the workers, or any of us for that matter? Maybe it’s all those $millions spent on advertising the “benefits” of channel deepening with the Brumby government’s favourite PR firm? 


So….Mr. Brumby, what exactly was the great rush to do channel deepening?


[1] The Guardian UK. Thursday 9 April 2009

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