Major developments in Port Hedland Australia

CSD Niccolo Macchiavelli. Credit: Jan De Nul

Jan De Nul has completed the capital dredging works for the Channel Risk and Optimisation Project (CROP) in Port Hedland, Western Australia.

These works are the final part of a three-year cooperation agreement with the Pilbara Ports Authority, where hopper dredgers, a cutter suction dredger (CSD) and split hopper barges were deployed to dredge sections of the 42-km long navigational channel and to further enhance the safe and sustainable access to the port of Hedland.

Part of CROP included the removal of high spots and the creation of two refuge zones and an emergency passing lane alongside the outer section of the shipping channel. Strict environmental requirements and operational constraints within the Port Hedland resulted in Jan De Nul adapting specific execution methods catering for such conditions. CSD Niccoló Macchiavelli was mobilised in barge loading mode, assisted by two split hopper barges.

The risk of temporarily jeopardising the safe use of the existing channel was reduced to a minimum and a non-compromised access to and from the berths in the inner port was secured.

Jan De Nul further customised its fleet to meet the strict operational and environmental requirements. The trailing suction hopper dredger Charles Darwin was fitted with an in-house designed ripper draghead. In addition, the hopper dredger Juan Sebastián de Elcano was equipped with an in-house developed milling draghead, adding to the flexibility and cost/time efficiency in executing the works.

David Jonckheere, area director Oceania and Asia at Jan De Nul, said, “The final portion of this three-year project was specifically challenging as it had to be executed within a fully operational and extremely busy port.”

To cater to the traffic within the port, Australian towage operator, Westug , has implemented an AI-assisted vessel dispatching tool to improve safety and sustainability of port operations such as towage. Helm CONNECT, a harbour towage dispatch and operational management platform, is fully integrated in the OptiPort solution.

In the port, Westug uses a two-stage planning solution, creating the initial plan to ensure sufficient capacity and fleet availability in Helm CONNECT. In the second stage, OptiPort analyses the expected vessel line-up, actual ETA/ETDs, crew resting hours and other factors and assists dispatchers in assigning the most optimal tugs to each vessel, ensuring the most efficient schedule is maintained throughout the course of the operations.

“OptiPort is a way of vessel dispatching that combines large amounts of AIS data with all relevant port system information systems resulting in the most optimal vessel dispatching that responds real time to the slightest changes in all available data. It suggests which tugs to use for which job and the speeds they should travel to ensure we’re not wasting fuel or increasing emissions.” Says Shaun Thomas, chief operating officer at Westug.