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Diving In The Heads and The Frustration of Shipping
Off Topic News Last Saturday's VSAG and Getunder dive plan was to dive on a reef on the west side of (and in) the shiping channel.... Knawesome Reef..

David Geekie has made some valid observaions of the distruptions to the dive when the Steve Irwin... (a very small vessel compared the larger container vessels and oil tankers) was scheduled to come in on the slack water at around 9.45AM.

Our dive plan was cancelled and we moved on to the Lonsdale wall dive site... David made the following comments and I passed this onto Alan Beckhust for further comment...

Please read the thread of the subject.



The cir(edited)stances of yesterday when we were unable to dive in the channel due to the entrance of the Steve Irwin has raised some question of rights of access in my mind.

There is no doubt that the heads area is vastly underrated as a SCUBA diving destination for both local and visiting divers. The limitation of access due to requiring slack water is a major factor in this, which is
compouded by commercial shipping having right of way.

I wonder whether it is time to challenge this right.

Given the size of these vessels I expect that they can cope with the conditions presented by the rip during tidal flow, therefore there is probably not a safety issue. The pilots have to come and go prior to and after passage so their vessels are already equipped to cope with tidal conditions.

I can’t see that it would be very difficult for those responsible for shipping through Melbourne to instruct ship masters that they are to avoid transiting the heads for 40 minutes either side of slack water during daylight hours, initially over weekends.

There are restrictions on shipping all over the world so this would be nothing new.

Once the rule is established it would be routine for shipping to plan around the restriction. The only complication is the changing tide time, but tide charts have existed for a while now. I am not aware if every ship has to have a pilot aboard, but if they are then it would be very easy to manage. Those ships so familiar with our port’s conditions that they do not need pilots would be aware of the conditions.

Your thoughts?.....



A couple of years ago DIVA ran this exact proposal by the PoMC, and besides humourous disbelief, they argued that many ships are marginal on power to navigate the currents at the rip and need to pass during slack water. Because of the construction of the rip and the complex currents, even tidal assistance can be problematic to some vessels. The deeper draft vessels expected will be even more sensitive. Ship safety will always underwrite the priority of rip crossing times. The other major consideration is the hourly cost of delaying a vessel, and who pays?

Of course the dive industry is considered insignificant by the PoMC and State Gov't, and so it is not expected we could make any changes which impose any costs (time or money) on shipping. I sat as a SDFV rep at this meeting, and we were asked to pledge our support for delaying ships during the weeks leading up to it, but we wouldn't be party to proposing it as we didn't believe it had a chance of cosideration. To get something like that through you need the support of the Pilots, AMSA and MSV, all of which have time and again refused to even enter dialogue on the topic.

Though it would be nice to have priority at the heads, the trend is toward increased ship traffic through the heads (quadruple by 2035) which will only lead to further restrictions. MSV have already stated their job would be easier if the heads were a transit only zone, and this is my greatest fear in the coming years. Even now it is rare to get the two hour shipping clearance reqired, basic arithmetic shows it will soon be impossible.

As an Industry we should work towards securing a guarantee of access to Lonsdale wall forever, and it needs to be done before the end of dredging!

Regards Alan

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Posted by BUBBLEDIVER on Wed, 06 Feb 2008 09:13 AM (1392 reads)

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