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Image courtesy of Port of Brisbane
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Port of Brisbane

Working beyond the port to deliver better business and investment opportunities
The Better Infrastructure Initiative identified ten industry exemplars that share a vision for infrastructure’s future - in partnership with customers and stakeholders. Port of Brisbane is one of those 2018 exemplars.

Stewardship challenge

Located at the mouth of the Brisbane River, Port of Brisbane is managed and developed by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) under a 99-year lease from the Queensland Government. The Brisbane floods in early 2013 devastated communities but also had an economic cost to the Port of Brisbane from the flow of sediments that required dredging. To address the challenge of floods, Port of Brisbane management needs to be prepared to work outside of the Port’s direct asset base. The Port of Brisbane is a diverse port serving a range of customers. The rise of the cruise ship industry has created a challenge for management of adapting to future needs, while catering for existing customers.

Blue River

It has been said that at one time people could drop a penny into the Brisbane River and see it sparkling on the bottom.1 For a range of reasons, including farming practices, the Brisbane River is now constantly muddy. Because Moreton Bay is an estuary, the constant flow of tides means that once sediment is generated it does not settle.

According to research by James Lockington and Laura Beckingham at the University of Queensland,2 mud in Moreton Bay has expanded 400km2  from 1970 to 2015. In a 1970 survey, 400km was covered by mud, which had increased to 800km2  by 2015.

Increased sediment, 80 percent of which comes from the Lockyer Valley has an impact on the environment,3 particularly seagrass which needs clear, clean waters to grow. One concern is that Moreton Bay’s seagrass beds are disappearing, which is affecting the local dugong population.4

Sediment flowing into Moreton Bay also has a financial impact for Port of Brisbane’s maintenance dredging to remove around 300,000m3. The Brisbane floods in early 2013 resulted in about 1.4m3 million of silt and sediment accumulating in Port of Brisbane channels, or the equivalent of more than 920 shiploads of dredged material, which took 20 weeks to remove.5

Addressing the sediment that comes into Port channels required the Port of Brisbane to work ‘beyond the gate’.

Working with stakeholders, including the Queensland Government, the Port of Brisbane provided A$500,000 to fund a pilot Offsite Stormwater Treatment Project upstream in the Lockyer Valley.6 Following the success of the pilot, an additional A$500,000 was committed.

The first stage involved stabilising and rehabilitating approximately 750m of eroded creek bank along Laidley Creek and replanting around 4000 native trees and grasses. The second stage rehabilitated

a further 200m of creek bank and constructed two cross-bed grade control structures. The project has demonstrated positive impacts, including preventing 4800 tonnes of sediment each year from entering Laidley Creek. Previous research by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Land and Water suggested that reducing sediment flow by 50 percent may be possible through a combination of bank revegetation,7 gully revegetation and establishing hillslope buffer strips. The longerterm challenge for the Port of Brisbane and its stakeholders is to establish governance, funding and financing mechanisms to expand the project.

Cruise terminal

According to the Cruise Lines International Association, demand for cruising worldwide has increased from 17.8 million passengers in 2009 to an expected 28 million passengers in 2018.8

Reflecting growing international demand, in October 2017, Port of Brisbane reached an agreement with the Queensland Government to build the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal (BICT) at Luggage Point.9 The terminal is expected to be operating by mid-2020 and generating almost A$5 billion in economic value for the Queensland economy alone within 15 years.10

Carnival Australia has entered into a long-term agreement that has been approved by the ACCC, committing to purchase 100 ‘foundation’ berthing days for 15 years to underwrite the construction of the new terminal. In exchange, Carnival Australia receives priority berthing rights at the terminal.

The A$158 million facility illustrates that ports need to adapt to a changing environment. Just as the aviation sector transformed over the last 15 years with the growth of low-cost airlines and development of new high-performance aircraft capable of carrying larger passenger loads, the development of the global cruise industry requires ports to adapt.

Port of Brisbane is demonstrating that it is proactively adapting to the changing needs of customers, including the changing nature of the customers. Ports are often considered international infrastructure, representing a gateway to trade.

The benefits of investment in port infrastructure can create value for society, such that port owners have to constantly scan the horizon to address new challenges and opportunities. Port of Brisbane is demonstrating its continued capacity to do this and invest in capital saving technologies and environmental remediation, so it can expand and diversify responsibly and efficiently.

Supporting efforts to turn the Brisbane River blue may take many years. Working outside the Port of Brisbane’s traditional base has the added benefit of demonstrating to the community how it can contribute to creating a healthy environment. To make Port of Brisbane’s investment in a cruise terminal a success it will need to collaborate with Brisbane Airport and Coolangatta Airport to create a seamless service from airport landing to anchors aweigh.


  1. Cooper, N. 2016. The mud that is slowly smothering Moreton Bay. Brisbane Times, 3 June.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Reef Biosearch. 2012. Dugongs of the Great Barrier Reef. Available: https://www.greatbarrierreefs.com.au/dugong-great-barrierreef. [Accessed 29 Aug 2018].
  5. Ports Australia. 2014. Dredging and Australian Ports; Subtropical and Tropical Ports. Available: http://www.portsaustralia.com.au/assets/Publications/Dredge-Report-Low-Res.pdf.
  6. Port of Brisbane. 2016. Port of Brisbane Stormwater Management. Available: www.portbris.com.au/getmedia/daed2047-1ce0-4237-843adefe4904d2b2/Port-of-Brisbane-Stormwater-Management.pdf
  7. Olley, J. M., Wilkinson, S. N., Caitcheon, G. G. & Read, A. M. 2006. Protecting Moreton Bay: How can we reduce sediment and nutrient loads by 50%? 9th International River Symposium. Brisbane.
  8. Cruise Lines International Association Inc. 2018. 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook. Available: https://cruising.org/docs/default-source/research/clia_sotci_preso_2018_061218.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
  9. Port of Brisbane. Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. Available: https://www.portbris.com.au/cruise. [Accessed 8 Aug 2018].
  10. Port of Brisbane. New Cruise Terminal for Brisbane is now full steam ahead. Available: https://www.portbris.com.au/Media/News/NEW-CRUISETERMINAL-FOR-BRISBANE-IS-NOW-FULL-STEAM. [Accessed 26 Aug 2018].