Chapter 104

Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine conferences and site inspections, obligations and solutions

The last week in September was hectic in the office. I had several days on higher duties acting for the Principal Engineer and Lloyd acted for me in Harbour Works. It was the custom for one of the Senior Engineer to act for the Principal Engineer when he is absent and my turn had come round.

Then I was to attend and present a paper at the First Australian Ports Harbour and Offshore Engineering Conference in Sydney, NSW on 29th September to 2nd October at the Hilton Hotel and attend the annual meeting of PIANC on 2nd October and the Department’s representative. Then to Cairns on Sunday, 5th October, returning to Brisbane on Saturday, 11th October. The paper presentation went off well as it was a general topic of interest “Advances in War-aid Structures,” which covered the old three pile beacon with reinforced concrete headstock and deck for acetylene cylinders followed by LPQ gas, and later solar panels to charge batteries for special bulbs and then light emitting dishes. The aim was to end up with reliable lights with minimum initial cost and minimum maintenance, but also complying with the requirements of Occupational Health & Safety regulations where there was a duty of care for workers to make the workplace as safe as –possible when working from a dinghy or launch over water.

Then there was the structure itself, whether landfall light houses, under control of the Commonwealth Government, or other navigation aids, under control of State Governments…in Queensland the Department of Harbours & Marine. These ranged from single pile beacons through to stainless steel tubular structure or lattice towers. Each beacon was a special case requiring a footing, a structure and a light. The method of construction had to be considered as everything had to be brought to the site and man-handled. We found, by experience, that installing a fabricated tower on a land site by helicopter presented few problems as the reference points did not move, but trying to control and lower a tower over water where six launches, two for each leg of the tower, endeavoured to position each leg over a conical jig to guide the base plates to the foundation bolts…this was like trying to get a ‘hole in one’ in golf. The helicopter pilot had difficulty getting a fixed reference point, as everything, other than the base structure was moving, and even though he nearly got it several times, the light structure ended up being installed by a boom on a barge. Where lights, mainly lead lights, were in mangroves and mud, screw piles were used for guyed structures and beacons for small craft had the lower sections driven into sand or mud with a “whacker packer” or by “water jetting”.

The First Australian Ports Harbour & Offshore Engineering Conference was a success and an afternoon sailing on Sydney Harbour for those interested was arranged for the Tuesday afternoon. The committee hired three 27 ft. Mauraders. It cost us $25 each, but well worth it and a good time was had sailing under the bridge and back. The Conference dinner was on the Wednesday night and the last papers Thursday morning followed by the PIANC meeting and lunch.

Sunday, 5th October saw me flying to Cairns for a meeting followed by the Harbour Board Engineers Conference where papers dealing with problems met during the year were discussed between the Post Engineers representing Port of Brisbane, Bundaberg Port Authority, Gladstone Harbour Board, Mackay Port Authority, Townsville Harbour Board, Cairns Port Authority and the remaining ports under the control of the Harbours Corporation and that is where we fitted in with the visit inspecting Harbours Corporation projects to assess the needs and feasibility for next year’s budget. This was accomplished by having a small group of five or six travelling to the sites and discussing the proposals with the local Harbour Master or Boating Patrol Superintendent. In this instance a plane was chartered to Normanton, Karumba, Weipa, Thursday Island, Lockhart River, Cooktown and return to Cairns. Port Douglas was visited by car from Cairns. It was a hectic, no nonsense trip, and we returned Cairns to Brisbane on Saturday, 11th October and I moved the boat back to Kangaroo Point on Sunday, 12th October. There was a note in the log “Roller furling works well” so I must have installed it around this time, and another note, “anchor winch removed”, the aircraft starter motor for the winch had seized up and I had spent a lot of money reinventing the wheel so this time I had Paul Koening install one of his winches modified to suit my chain layout, and it worked like a charm.