A $15.5 million shipping navigation project commissioned by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has been completed, following the repair and upgrade of vital aids to navigation (AtoNs) off the coast of Port Hedland. 

The works began in 2021 after severe tropical cyclone Veronica in 2019, which caused significant damage to electrical equipment, access ladders, platforms, day markers and fenders. 

As part of this project, AMSA has replaced the top of 13 AtoNs, installed new platforms and above water pile sections, and increased the height of AtoN platforms, to reduce the risk of wave impact from storms. 

Most of the onsite works were undertaken using specialist ‘jack up’ barge equipment, but other works required the use of rope access technicians, divers and riggers who worked in some challenging conditions. 

Workers contended with strong tides, winds and waves, as well as the risks posed by passing large ships. 

On-site work was temporarily halted in April 2023, due to Cyclone Ilsa. The specialist ‘jack up’ barge, and supporting vessels, used for the project were taken to a cyclone refuge close to Port Hedland, to ride out the storm. 

AMSA Executive Director Response, Mark Morrow, said that the project demonstrates AMSA’s commitment to ensuring AtoNs around Australia are kept well-maintained and operational. 

“The efficient and safe movement of shipping is essential to Australia and our economy,” Mr Morrow said. 

“This project will add another two decades to the lifespan of this vital safety infrastructure.  

“Working in these conditions can be challenging as was experienced here, and I congratulate the project team and contractor Austral Construction on a job well done.”  

Featured image: Workers performing the repairs. Image: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

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