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The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester was recently welcomed aboard Lakes Entrance’s new high-tech dredger, Tommy Norton.

Tommy Norton, now formally handed over to Gippsland Ports, has been working to maintain safe access into and out of the lakes system since mid-October.

Mr Chester said he had been interested to see Tommy Norton at work.

“Locals will be becoming accustomed to seeing Tommy Norton as it keeps the entrance and channel maintained for the many vessels that come in and out of the lakes system,” Mr Chester said.

“Lakes Entrance is home to Victoria’s largest commercial fishing fleet and is an important hub for the off-shore oil and gas industries as well as recreational boating. The entrance has been dredged for more than a century to maintain safe and reliable access into the lakes system and out to the ocean.”

Tommy Norton, named after a paddle steamer that worked in the lakes in the 1870s, is a highly technical trailing suction hopper dredge. It was commissioned by Gippsland Ports and custom-built for the local conditions at Lakes Entrance.

Gippsland Ports’ Executive Manager Maritime Services David Holding said Tommy Norton, which was designed in Holland and built in China, arrived in Lakes Entrance in early September, underwent final acceptance testing and was handed over to Gippsland Ports in early October.

“The dredger is equipped with highly sophisticated technology that enables us to operate safely and efficiently under a range of weather, tidal, sea state, loading and propulsion conditions,” Mr Holding said. “Our experienced crew has received specialised training from the boat builder and the dredger is performing to expectations.

“Gippsland Ports acknowledges the significant funding of the $23 million dredger provided by the Victorian Government to ensure safe and reliable ocean access to Gippsland Lakes is maintained for commercial and recreational boating.”

Members of the public will soon be able to get a closer look at Tommy Norton at its home at Bullock Island at an open day to be scheduled.

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