Port Phillip Bay will be disgusting, toxic and stink like a sewer – but that’s the good news

An Exxon Valdez for Port Phillip Bay is the prediction of experienced former harbour master, Captain Frank Hart and coastal geomorphologist and weatherman, Rob Gell. Sure, the waters of the Bay will be disgusting, toxic and smell like a sewerage farm for the next five to ten years, but that’s the good news. Captain Hart says it’s not “if” there will be a catastrophic Exxon Valdez style disaster but “when.” He explains it this way: “the bigger ships will be fifty metres wide but they will have to turn to the east to keep their bows into the current (sometimes running at 14 knots) in some of the most dangerous water in the world. In turning to enter the Bay they may present a width of 120 metres when entering the 180 metre entrance to the South Channel.

Sound a reasonable risk? Not to the knowledgeable, who know that even with the smaller ships of today there have been an average of 3 groundings a year since 1974 (Captain Hart used FOI to discover those figures). The present depth of ships means they can scrape over the sands but when there’s another 3 to 4 metres on the keel they’ll plough into the sands that has rocks buried with the consistency of dried fruit in a Xmas cake.

Captain Frank Hart and Rob Gell made their comments in my documentary, The Last Good Summer, shown on Nine network News last year, and six times on Channel 31, this year. Why wasn’t Captain Hart listened to at the vartious hearing? because panel members said he didn’t know very much because he had retired. At that point he’d been retired for a year and had been sailing on an ocean going cruising yacht off the coast of South America.

Of course the Exxon Valdez was in the charge of a drunken skipper when it hit rocks off Williams Sound. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter if our pilots are drunk or not, those chosen to demonstrate the new technology to be used, failed to negotiate the model of the dredged channel and each was “shipwrecked.”

The huge dilemma the State Government (read Brumby and Melbourne Club members) will face is that if we do have an Exxon Valdez the Bay will never recover and the clean-up will cost an estimated 12 billion dollars; ten times the estimate the dredging of the channel will bring in over ten years. Oh, and the dredging will not cost $750,000 but $1.3 million. Finally, we pay $1.3 billion to buy the risk of an Exxon Valdez.


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