Beattie said that two projects had been approved by the State Government: a $70 million dredging program at Hay Point, south of Mackay and a $116 million expansion at Abbot Point, north of Bowen.
Beattie said the Hay Point project would be one of the largest dredging projects in the southern hemisphere this year and would use the largest dredge of its kind, the W D Fairway, to create a mega channel for bulk carriers.
Hay Point is already the world's largest coal port, exporting 85.54 million tonnes of coal in 2004-05.
Transport Minister Paul Lucas said the works include the removal of about nine million cubic metres of material in order to allow larger ships to be loaded to maximum tonnage when leaving the port.
“At present, some coal carriers are leaving the port short-loaded due to depth restrictions,” Lucas said.
“We will save them tens of millions of dollars in freight costs every year as a result of the deeper channel.
“The increase in channel depth means coal export capacity will increase by more than 3 million tonnes a year."
Lucas said a detailed environmental impact statement for the Hay Point project had already been completed and initiatives developed to deal with issues relating to the safe disposal of the dredged material.
He said an assessment of the environmental impact for the Abbot Point expansion had also been completed.
“This expansion will allow additional exports valued through Abbot Point at about $500 million to be shipped annually," Lucas said.
The project will involve the construction of two additional stockpiles, a new stacker reclaimer, and faster conveyer systems to increase capacity from 15Mtpa to 21Mtpa.
Lucas said that work to install the Abbot Point infrastructure was expected to start in the next two months, to be completed by mid-2007.