Philip Hopkins

The Barry Beach marine terminal in South Gippsland is likely to generate hundreds of jobs as the offshore windfarms in Bass Strait gather pace in the future, according to the terminal operator Qube.

“We think we have the jewel in the crown, the operations and maintenance facility is a 30-50 year project for the local community, jobs and investment,” said Qube’s general manager of strategic development, Michael Knowles. Qube, a listed company with a market capitalisation of $5.4 billion, has been the manager and operator of Barry Beach since 2017, from where it has serviced the Esso oil and gas industry.

Mr Knowles, who was addressing the recent Gippsland New Energy Conference in Sale, said Qube was already servicing offshore wind through the offshore geo-tech requirements of Star of the South. The state government has chosen the Port of Hastings as the construction feeder port for offshore windfarms, while Barry Beach will be the operations and maintenance port.

“The transition of Barry Beach to renewable projects will benefit the local community through employment, traineeships, business contract and sponsorship opportunities,” Mr Knowles said.

“Gippsland must benefit from these projects on their doorstep. The ability of Barry Beach to serve these projects will ensure this goal is achieved. Since 2017, Qube has ensured local content for all our employment. Business services and sponsorships will continue in future. We are part of the local community we live in and will continue to be a responsible corporate citizen.”

Mr Knowles said Barry Beach, which is close to Corner Inlet, is an 80-hectare site with 425 metres of quay line, fuel farms, bulk liquid farms and labour forklift cranes.

“Qube proposes to upgrade Barry Beach to become the key hub of operations and maintenance support for offshore wind,” he said.

This will involve construction of 160m of new quay line to service Esso and other vessels; a marina for berthing and transfer vessels; and buildings for operations and maintenance administration, equipment and storage. It will include client collaboration in design that meets industry standards. Barriers will protect the 160m berth from wave action.

The expansion also includes industrial warehouses with offices, with segregated areas for each client; segregated quarantine and electrical storage; individual offices and amenities; change rooms for technical and offshore crews; up to 500 car parking bays; capacity for shared emergency support vehicles; and the ability to expand as required.”Qube is excited to deliver this project,” he said.

Mr Knowles said the labour skills of the workforce at Barry Beach and nearby Port Anthony could be transferred seamlessly to offshore wind “tomorrow”.

He estimated that terminal construction would create 150 jobs for two years.

“We always commit to local content. A good number would be employed from local industries,” he said.

Further, Mr Knowles said there would be 200 ongoing jobs at the terminal. “With six or seven projects locally, that ‘s a really good job market for local industry. We as a port facility, would add 10-20 per cent on to that,” he said. However, it was important to avoid the ‘boom and bust’ employment of some Queensland projects.

Queried whether the expansion would require dredging, Mr Knowles said the state government had chosen the nominated ports. “We will do what we need to do; we will build a berth to cater for dredging later if the Victorian government supports it,” he said. “Dredging is not on our horizon.”

The community relations manager at the Port of Hastings, Todd Trimble, told the conference that the terminal to oversee construction of the windfarms would be built between two existing jetties – Long Point and Blue Scope Steel – on a 29ha site, the old Tyabb reclamation area that was created about 50 years ago.

The terminal will be built out on reclaimed land into Western Port to create a quay front in the existing deep water channel in line with the existing jetties. There will be some dredging to allow a turning circles for large vessels.

Large-scale vessels will come into the port, offload component where they are stored, pre-commissioned and ready for installation.

“Components will be stored out back. We will pre-assemble the towers on the quay site and load them onto installation vessels. The issues for the local community are their size and visual impact. The towers are about 200m in height, three times the MCG light towers, so there is a big visual impact on the local community,” he said.

Mr Trimble said Hastings was a naturally deep water port with 3500ha of zoned land at the back of the terminal that could house the supply chain and manufacturing for the future.

“The channel capacity is now 100-150 vessels per-year now. At the peak in the 1970s and ’80s was 400-500 per year,” he said, so there was significant capacity.

“We are relatively close to the offshore wind zone and close to the south-east growth part of Melbourne.”

Mr Trimble said Western Port was a Ramsar site and part of a Unesco biosphere, so environmental standards were higher than other sites.

“There will be some dredging in the port and channel, ” he said. There would be shoreline protection and improvement works on onshore side.

“The reclamation, formed 50 years ago, needs engineering strength to handle the weight of these heavy components, and the administration and maintenance buildings, ” he said. There would be lighting, fire fighting, massive cranes and environmental monitoring surveys.

“We hope to start dredging in 2026. With a two-year program, the facility will be available in late 2028-29 to allow three years of construction to meet 2032 targets.”

Mr Trimble said impacts were being assessed as part of the environment effects statement.

“It’s a positive story. We have identified Gippsland businesses that can support that,” he said.

The local community had a tradition of not supporting inappropriate developments such as the AGL gas import terminal, but there was likely support for projects that improved the environment such as renewable energy.

“There is some concern about dredging and material, but sentiment is positive to date,” he said.

“There are constant discussions about future developments, such as turbine and turbine size. There may be technical reasons how big they can get. We will be guided by feedback from proponents.”

Queried whether other ports would be used – Bell Bay in Tasmania or Lakes Entrance and Port Albert, Mr Knowles acknowledged that Tasmania also planned wind farms.

“Qube has a presence in all Australian ports. Where there are wind projects, we are keen to serve them, including Bell Bay. We hope it stays in Victoria and Hastings,” he said.

“We are building capacity for berth and marine. With Port Anthony next door, both ports can cater for seven wind farm projects quite easily.”