At the regular monthly Meeting of Bayside Council on Wednesday 10 July 2019, a motion on the Berejiklian government’s proposed Yarra Bay mega cruise ship terminal was moved by Councillor Christina Curry and seconded by Councillor Scott Morrissey. The motion (below) was passed unanimously.
In this post, we look at big seas – storms and ocean swells – and explain that while they can theoretically be controlled in Yarra Bay, the consequences are unacceptable – for Yarra Bay, for the Port Botany shipping channel and for Kurnell.
Let’s get started!
Yarra Bay is fully exposed to swells from the south east (red arrow). Southerly swells are also significant, as they curl into the bay (orange arrow):
To protect Port Botany’s Brotherson Dock from these swells, the Molineaux Point break wall was built. It arrests the swells and dissipates their energy as they run south-west to north-east along its face (green arrow in diagram above).
However large swells associated with storm events are only partially dissipated. When they hit the Molineaux Point break wall (red arrows), some of their energy is redirected across Yarra Bay (orange arrows):
This is why Yarra Bay has surf, on days when big seas cause Sydney’s ocean beaches to be closed:
And why the groyne in front of Yarra Bay Sailing Club can be over-topped by large breaking waves:
Information from port community sources indicates that the Berejiklian Government’s “Strategic Business Case” proposes a finger wharf to accommodate cruise ships extending into Yarra Bay from Bumbora Point.
Large swells, hitting the Molineaux Point break wall and rebounding across Yarra Bay would present a major risk for this finger wharf (dark red line), and for ships berthed at it (blue lines):
The ships would surge at their berths, and to prevent damage to them and to the wharf, they would need to leave their berths. Once they had departed, the wharf would be fully exposed to the swells and could suffer significant damage.
To protect the finger wharf, an island breakwater that would prevent swells entering Yarra bay would need to be constructed (green line), almost at right angles to the direction of the swells (red arrows):
The island breakwater could not be at right angles to the swells as it would protrude into the Port Botany shipping channel. But it would need to extend as close to the Molineaux Point break wall as possible, in order to prevent the swells reaching the break wall and being redirected towards the Yarra Bay finger wharf.
Locating a breakwater here has major consequences for Yarra Bay
Firstly, it would restrict access to the finger wharf to a narrow channel (orange arrow, below). Dredging of the (shallow) water close to the breakwall would be required and navigation of mega cruise ships through this tight access passage with strong tidal flows would be challenging. Keep in mind that cruise ships have inflexible schedules – to meet their passengers’ expectations, they must berth at dawn and sail at dusk.
Secondly, the breakwater would drastically restrict the tidal flow of water in and out of Yarra Bay, creating a narrow channel between the breakwater and the Yarra beach shore (green arrow, above). This would result in dangerous currents and deep channels close to the beach, scouring of the seabed and sand depletion from the beach. Yarra Bay beach would become dangerous, particularly on the ebb tide. The sailing club would no longer be able to operate and the Maroubra and Coogee surf clubs’ surfboat and IRB training would be compromised.
The consequences for the Port Botany shipping channel are equally severe
Sand dragged from Yarra Bay by tidal currents past both ends of the island breakwater (red arrows) would end up in the shipping channel (gray zone of chart) and would require frequent dredging to keep it clear:
Just as swells are redirected from the Molineaux Point break wall, they would also rebound from the island breakwater:
This would result in confused cross seas in the shipping channel and would cause passing ships to list side to side and plunge bow to stern. This is highly undesirable for large, deep draughted vessels with minimal Under Keel Clearance (UKC) and could cause hull damage and even groundings.
The confused seas would also greatly increase the risk of capsize faced by recreational fishing vessels.
And there are consequences for Kurnell …
After traversing the shipping channel, the redirected swells would strike the Kurnell shoreline:
Damage to the beaches could be expected in the vicinity of the Captain Cook monument. Further to the west, oil tankers at the Kurnell oil products terminal jetty and the the swinging buoy north of the jetty would also be impacted by the rebounding swells.
Yarra Bay is highly exposed to south and south easterly ocean swells that can occur at any time of the year. To protect mega cruise ships berthed at a large wharf in Yarra Bay, a massive breakwater would need to be constructed across the wide mouth of the bay. The cost of this structure and its impact on Yarra Bay, the Port Botany shipping channel and the Kurnell shoreline are simply too high. The ill conceived proposal to construct a mega cruise ship terminal in Yarra Bay must be abandoned now.
Note on options
The mega cruise ship wharf location design we have illustrated in the diagrams above is based on information we are receiving from the port community and our own calculations regarding depths in various parts of Yarra Bay and the orientation need to protect berthed ships from the extremely strong winds experienced at this exposed site.
Two other options are provided below. Both would require the protection of a massive island breakwater, identical to the one illustrated above.
Jean-Francois De Florette: I regularly paddle an ocean ski in Botany Bay and in particular Yarra Bay when conditions offshore are too big … A few weeks ago I paddled 4-5 metre swell in Yarra Bay!
To give you perspective, when I was in the trough of the wave, the tops of the cranes at Port Botany would disappear in front of my eyes. Whilst this was fun for me, I could not stop thinking that Gladys would have to build a bigger (sea)wall than Donald’s…!
Grant Rogers: In really big swells we couldn’t see other sailing competitors and they had nine metre tall masts.
Natalie Rogers: Grant Rogers in a really REALLY big swell we had waves hitting the centre of the main sail!!
Rodney Rat Ardler: Some days the waves make it to the road [ Prince of Wales Drive ] – they go over that wall [Molineaux point break wall ]
Nature poses two major threats to a Yarra Bay mega cruise ship terminal. The obvious natural threat is sea state, as the site is fully exposed to the open ocean and in a direct line to south-easterly swells:
Mega cruise ships are very tall – the height of a 17 floor building – and slab sided:
And they are very long (at 348 metres, Ovation of the Seas is as long as the eastern side of Hyde Park south – Liverpool Street to Park Street):
A floating object of this shape with these vast dimensions is highly vulnerable to the force of strong wind.
Mighty Ships documentary – Captain of mega cruise ship Quantum of the Seas, whose departure has been delayed, says to camera: “Wind is our biggest enemy.”
Yarra Bay is not protected by hills or ridges in any direction and strong to gale force winds impact the bay in all seasons of the year and from five directions:
south – any time of year
south east – any time of year
south west – in winter and spring
north west – in spring and summer
north east – in summer
There is a real risk that a mega cruise ship, berthed at an exposed wharf in Yarra Bay, could be hit by winds so strong that it would break its moorings. If not able to manoeuvre quickly enough under its own power, the gigantic ship could be pushed by the wind and run aground in the bay – in front of Yarra Bay beach or on the Port Botany breakwater, somewhere between Molineaux Point and Bumborah Point.
To gain an appreciation of the real possibility of such an incident, it is worth recalling the events of the night of 14 October 2014 at Brotherson Dock in Port Botany. A gale force southerly arrived suddenly about 9:00 pm. The winds reached 126 kilometers per hour – category 2 cyclonic strength – just before 9:30 pm and broke the moorings of the Kiel Express, a large container ship berthed at the DP World terminal on the south eastern side of Brotherson Dock.
The Kiel Express swung out of control across Brotherson Dock and its stern collidedwith Safmarine Makutu amidships, another large container ship which was berthed at the Patricks terminal on the opposite side of Brotherson Dock.
While swinging out of control away from the wharf, the bow of the Kiel Express cut the bow mooring lines of a third large container ship, the OOCL Hong Kong, which was also berthed at the DP World terminal. As the bow of the OOCL Hong Kong swung out into the dock, its stern was pushed into the quay and was damaged by bollards on the wharf.
The OOCL Hong Kong was brought under control by tugs and had to be held by them throughout the night, while the Kiel Express was only brought under control by allowing it to lie alongside the Safmarine Makutu for the rest of the night.
The Safmarine Makutu and the OOCL Hong Kong suffered damage affecting their seaworthiness, including damage to the hulls and navigational lights. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) required these ships to undergo repairs before leaving port.
On the night of 14 October 2014, it was possible to bring under control two very large ships with broken mooring lines because:
there was some degree of shelter within Brotherson Dock
six powerful tugs could be mobilised rapidly and being berthed in Brotherson Dock, were immediately able to attend to the stricken ships
within the dock, and due to the direction of the wind, there was nowhere for the ships to run aground
In Yarra Bay, on such a dangerous night:
there would be no shelter
the ships would be twice as large
tugs would not be at hand – they would be half an hour away
there would be no dock with water of uniform depth and the ships would be blown on to the beach or the Molineaux Point breakwall
We leave the consequences to your imagination. As a guide to one possible outcome, you may recall the grounding of the Pasha Bulker at Nobbys Beach Newcastle in 2007, when caught at the port’s weather-exposed anchorage by the onset of gale force winds:
Note: The very dangerous nine hour incident in Port Botany on 14-15 October 2014 was reported in:
Josie Gilbert: 5 boats per year wash up on the beach if not more. Thus moorings being closed for application now. Very bloody windy here.
Cheryl Rennie: A most professional and correct report by Peter! It is what the sailors from Yarra Bay Sailing Club have been saying all along!
Michelle McKenna: Someone I know who has worked in and on the bay extensively and knows it inside out laughs when I talk about the terminal, pretty much for this reason. I hope he is right.
Anthony James: Locals know how wild Botany can be. Again and again. Rough is common in the bay.
Mark Baker: The container ships are not moored in Yarra Bay, regardless, they have broken their moorings on multiple occasions, while actually being sheltered BEHIND the Yarra Bay breakwall, and caused significant damage to themselves and other vessels.
I have lived in La Perouse for the last 10 years, every time we have a significant weather event, boats moored in Frenchman’s Bay break their moorings and get thrown up on the beach or sunk, the logic I am using is based on observation and experience.
Mark Baker: This is what you get when we get an East Coast Low in Frenchman’s Bay, boats breaking moorings and ending up on the beach, now imagine this was a giant cruise ship with thousands of people on board, it’d be smashed onto the beach or break wall without fail, hello disaster!
At its meeting on 30 April, Randwick City Council carried unanimously two motions concerning the Berejiklian government’s proposal to construct a mega cruise ship terminal in Yarra Bay:
Motion 18/19 – Cr Said – Update on Opposition to Proposed Passenger Cruise Ship Terminal
For the address in support of the motion by Maria Poulos of Save the Bay Coalition, click here.
Motion 19/19 – Cr Said – Apply for National Heritage Listing and Grant Program
For the address in support of the motion by Peter Fagan of Save the Bay Coalition, click here.
Save the Bay Coalition acknowledges the support of all Councillors for these motions. We look forward to working with Councillors and staff as the campaign to stop this destructive development proposal enters its next phase.
The agenda and business papers for Randwick City Council’s meeting next Tuesday (30 April) are here.
There are two motions of concern to Save Yarra Bay members and supporters:
Notice of Motion from Cr Said – Update on opposition to proposed passenger cruise ship terminal (page 293)
Notice of Motion from Cr Said – Apply for National Heritage Listing and Grant Program (page 295)
To demonstrate our concern over the future of Yarra Bay and to support those Councillors voting in favour of Councillor Danny Said’s motions, please (if you can) attend the Council meeting on on Tuesday 30 April – 6 pm, Council Chambers, 1st Floor Randwick Town Hall, 90 Avoca Street Randwick.
Save the Bay Coalition representatives will speak to both motions.
Should you wish to make representations to your Councillors on these matters, their contact details are here.
P.S: Councillor Said is also active on behalf of the local community with another motion:
Notice of Motion from Cr Said – Development applications in Banksmeadow (Bayside Council) (page 319)
Botany Road, in the vicinity of the Berejiklian government’s proposed mega cruise ship terminal, is already extremely busy in daylight hours.
If a mega cruise ship terminal is jammed into this already overcrowded precinct, expect extreme traffic congestion, frustration, accidents, delayed starts to bus excursions and bus excursions reaching the dock after ships have departed.
Queues build rapidly at peak times and when there is a delay within a terminal.
We predict that the mega cruise ship terminal will be at the end of Bumborah Point Road. Coinciding with morning and evening peaks, two mega cruise ships at a Yarra Bay terminal would require around 100 coaches to enter and leave Bumborah Point Road each morning and evening.
Right hand turns into an out of Bumborah Point Road are already very busy with container and bulk liquids truck movements – and STA buses from the Port Botany bus depot trying to keep to timetable. Coaches, taxis, Ubers, private vehicles and delivery vans and trucks will all have to join the queues.
On 30 April, Randwick City Council Deputy Mayor Danny Said (Labor, South Ward) will present a motion to the Council meeting. The motion will recommend the nomination of Yarra Bay for inclusion on the National Heritage List.
Randwick City Council has already applied to the NSW Government to have the area included in the State Heritage Register.
The Sydney Business Chamber clearly sees heritage listing as a real threat to their plans to transform Yarra Bay for the benefit of the foreign-owned cruise industry. Their director of policy Chris Lamont told the Daily Telegraph:
“It would be disappointing if the heritage listing process was being abused to exclude necessary and important considerations around a new cruise ship terminal.”
A representative of Save Yarra Bay will speak in favour of the motion. Will the Sydney Business Chamber find someone to speak against it? And how will Liberal Councillors vote? It should be an interesting night.
We will publish Councillor Said’s motion as soon as it is available. Before the meeting date, Save Yarra Bay Coalition members and supporters are encouraged to make representations to Councillors – their contact details are here.
If you can, please also attend the Council meeting on Tuesday 30 April – 6 pm, Council Chambers, 1st Floor Randwick Town Hall, 90 Avoca Street Randwick.
The Mayor of Randwick City, Councillor Kathy Neilson has written to the Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance and the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, to request a meeting to discuss Council’s (and our) concerns and objections to the Yarra Bay mega cruise ship terminal proposal. This includes a request for the release of the Strategic Business Case.
Mayor Neilson’s letter to Andrew Constance is here (the letter to Stuart Ayres is identical).
Mayor Neilson has also requested a meeting with Peter Collins who led the Cruise Industry Reference Group. The recommendations of the group were included in the NSW Cruise Development Plan and Mayor Neilson is seeking a briefing on these recommendations.
Matt Thistlethwaite, Federal Member for Kingsford Smith reports on his letter to the Prime Minister:
Following the NSW State election, it’s now even more important for our local community to speak out strongly against the proposed cruise ship terminal at Yarra Bay.
We need to speak together and let both the Federal and State Governments know that the people of Kingsford Smith don’t want a cruise ship terminal in our community.
It was of course the axed Prime Minister, the former Member for Wentworth, who made a captain’s call to rule out Garden Island as the preferred location for Sydney’s new cruise ship terminal.
The former [State] Liberal leader, Peter Collins, was appointed to head up a Cruise Industry Reference Group and asked to identify some possible solutions to the current crush of cruise ships coming into Sydney Harbour.
The preferred option for an additional cruise ship terminal was Garden Island West, with option two being North-East Garden Island.
Further down the list, the recommendations of the Cruise Industry Reference Group clearly stated that for options three and four, Molineaux Point/Botany Bay and Yarra Bay/Botany Bay, respectively, consultation with Indigenous and local community representatives and in accordance with environmental safeguards should be carried out.
This, of course, hasn’t happened, and our community may have to pay the price.
Once again the Bidjigal people, whose ancestors have called Yarra Bay their home for thousands of years, have not been consulted on this disastrous plan.
They say a cruise ship terminal in their backyard will destroy local traditional fishing areas and livelihoods.
And the numbers just don’t add up.
An independent review shows that accommodating cruise ships at Garden Island would cost $143 million.
And yet taxpayers are being asked to spend over half a billion dollars on an ill-conceived cruise ship terminal at Yarra Bay.
Adding insult to injury, the cruise ship industry says it won’t contribute financially.
That’s why I’ve written to our Prime Minister, who is also the Member for Cook, on behalf of a community ready to fight to the end against a cruise ship terminal at Yarra Bay.
Mindful that the electorate of Cook is within sight of the proposed cruise ship terminal, I’ve asked our Prime Minister, ‘Where are you on this?’
I’ve also suggested that it’s time to make Garden Island the next site for Sydney’s cruise ship terminal.
It’s high time for Governments, both Federal and State, to listen to the people, and for all of us to have our say loudly and clearly, ‘Save Yarra Bay’!
Federal Member for Kingsford Smith
To help voters committed to saving Yarra Bay to decide who to vote for in this Saturday’s State Election, we invited the candidates and the political parties contesting the Maroubra and Coogeee electoral divisions to outline their policies and actions.
Most candidates and political parties have responded, and their responses are available for you to read on our Use Your Vote Page.
We also set up an opinion page, in the hope that some of our most vocal voices would make considered statements explaining why they had decided to vote for a particular candidate and political party. Only one response so far but there is still time for more – on our My Opinion page.