Spoilbank Marina: a refuge from industry

Spoilbank Marina at Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is set to transform the busy industrial waterfront into an attractive destination for locals and tourists to visit, with a grand opening expected later this year.

Artist’s impression of the completed Spoilbank Marina at Port Hedland in Western Australia.

Artist’s impression of the completed Spoilbank Marina at Port Hedland in Western Australia.

The Hedland community has held aspirations for a marina since the 1980s and the AU$187 million Spoilbank Marina project – a key election commitment from the Western Australia Government – is unlikely to disappoint. It is being delivered by the country’s largest port, Pilbara Ports, and is funded by the state government, the town of Port Hedland and resources company BHP. When complete, it will join a crop of marinas springing up along the Western Australian coast, including the world-class Ocean Reef Marina in Joondalup.
Naturally deep waters have helped Port Hedland achieve its status as the highest tonnage port in Australia. Each year, around 3,300 vessels come and go, transporting 566.5 million tonnes of cargo. The town is also famous for its enormous trains, with one BHP train in 2001 setting the world record for the longest and heaviest train at 7.3km (4.5 miles) long, comprising 682 cars and hauling 82,000 tonnes of ore.
While the sight of such large vessels and trains is awe-inspiring, to improve access and ensure safety for recreational boaters and fishermen Spoilbank Marina sits at the end of a separate navigational channel that splinters off from the main shipping lane.
Led by Australian landscape architects and environmental consultants, Emerge, and working closely with DevelopmentWA, the new marina has been designed to alleviate demand on the existing boat launching facilities at Port Hedland. Its construction has provided a boost to the Pilbara economy, with more than 60% of project spend to date awarded to local and registered Aboriginal businesses and more than 200 local jobs generated during the construction period.
The marina has been in the planning pipeline for more than a decade, Emerge says, but due to the size and scale of previous concept plans, as well as funding constraints, the project was put on hold.
The marina boat ramp was officially opened to the Hedland community  in January 2024.

The marina boat ramp was officially opened to the Hedland community in January 2024.

The initial proposal was for dredging works resulting in up to 900,000m³ of dredge spoil, dredged to a maximum depth of -2m chart datum. The dredge spoil will be used onsite as fill material to raise the finished ground level before landscaping, with excess material disposed of offsite. Plans also involved clearing and ground disturbance of up to 40ha (99 acres) within a development area of around 77ha (190 acres).
The budget was set at AU$121.5 million and the project was expected to complete by late 2022, but both budget and time to complete the work have been significantly extended.
Construction underway
Construction of the marina is now well advanced, Pilbara Ports project director – Spoilbank Marina, John Freimanis, told Marina World. A four-lane boat ramp has been installed, with floating pontoons that rise and fall with the tides, allowing it to be accessible to the public at all tides. The pontoons are designed to lay flat, removing the need for split levels and making the ramp suitable for wheelchair users. The marina has 22 boat pens, with capacity to expand to 80 pens in the future. A two-platform jetty has been designed to account for Port Hedland’s fluctuating tides. The top level is wheelchair friendly and includes lowered handrail sections so that children and people of all abilities can fish from the jetty. Six artificial reef balls have been installed underneath to create an inviting habitat for fish. Pilbara Ports is also building trailer parking for up to 200 vehicles.
The final stage of construction will bring the marina vision to life and provide a vibrant foreshore area for locals and visitors to gather. This stage includes the delivery of retaining walls, footpaths, landscaping, a public amenities building, shade structures and the installation of utilities and services. Pilbara Ports will also plant around 700 trees in this final stage. For the public, there will be an accessible breakwater with pedestrian path, recreation and event space, a waterfront promenade, barbecue facilities and an art and cultural gathering space. Nine unique artworks by indigenous Kariyarra artists have been selected for the marina and their fabrication is ongoing.
The marina will also boast a maintenance hardstand, two fish cleaning stations with six taps and 20 CCTV cameras for security purposes. The lights at Spoilbank Marina have been designed to minimise impacts to turtles at the nearby Cemetery Beach – an important nesting site.
The marina is being opened to the public in stages. The first stage, which included the public boat ramp facility, car park and main access road, was officially opened to the public in January. The boat ramp opening hours are currently 6am to 6pm, daily, and will be increased to 24 hours a day once the marina lights are operational. The boat pens will be the next stage to open, which is expected by mid-2024.
A two-platform public jetty has been designed to account for fluctuating tides.

A two-platform public jetty has been designed to account for fluctuating tides.

Civil and landscaping construction is well progressed, with construction of the concrete retaining walls progressing well around the promenade/central hub in the southeast corner of the marina basin. Western Australian business Ertech was awarded the contract for the works. Work has also begun on the footpaths near the boat pens and boat ramp, using decorative exposed aggregate paving. The picnic shelters are also being installed, with footings constructed and steelwork going in. Steel columns have been erected for the shade structure near the public amenities building. Installation of underground services continues, including irrigation, power and communications. The marina has also begun work on curved seats that emerge from the ground, hand made using local Karratha stone.
Work is expected to continue until late 2024, when the marina will fully open. When the boat pens are operationally ready, the Department of Transport will take over operation of the marina.
In harmony with nature
Despite its fame as a transport hub, Port Hedland is also a popular tourist destination, just a two-hour flight from Perth. Its desert climate provides year-round hot weather, averaging ten hours of sunshine a day. The main beach front is home to a flatback sea turtle rookery, while several lookouts on the waterfront allow for viewing bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales.
Artificial reef balls will be  installed underneath the jetty  to create an inviting habitat for fish.

Artificial reef balls will be installed underneath the jetty to create an inviting habitat for fish.

Estuaries support mangroves, fish and an impressive array of birds including red-necked stints, sharp-tailed sandpipers, red-necked avocets, oriental plovers, bustards, bowerbirds and finches.
Port Hedland sits at the heart of a region rich in indigenous culture, which has been sensitively woven into the marina design. The ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon can be seen between March and October, when the full moon rises above the exposed mudflats at low tide, creating an optical illusion of a staircase to the moon. Nearby, more than 129km (80 miles) of pure white, undisturbed beach sand is flanked by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. When complete, Spoilbank Marina is set to seamlessly blend these industrial and natural worlds.


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