Control tower’s condition scrutinised

Sean Car

Development Victoria is undertaking an assessment of the condition of Docklands’ Shipping Control Tower at the tip of Collins Wharf amid calls for the maritime heritage asset to be preserved and restored for public activation.

The original tower, a timber octagonal structure, was first built in Victoria Harbour in 1934. This was replaced in 1966 by the tower standing today to coordinate shipping, towage pilots and emergency services in the busy port.

According to the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN), “such was the importance of the port operations in Docklands to the public of Melbourne that the shipping tower’s immensely popular automated telephone service provided shipping information on 116,995 calls in the first year of operation.”

However, since its closure, the tower, which has both state and national heritage protections as part of the Victoria Dock precinct, has remained redundant and has reportedly fallen into a significant state of disrepair.

Development Victoria’s group head precincts Geoff Ward said it was undertaking a “condition audit” of the heritage asset.

“We are carrying out a condition audit on the building and will implement the necessary measures to preserve this important heritage asset at Victoria Harbour,” Mr Ward said.

MMHN chair and former City of Melbourne councillor Dr Jackie Watts said, “this heritage asset has been neglected to the point of demolition.”

“Elsewhere in the world such public heritage assets such as the shipping tower are recognised and protected as having significant social, cultural and economic value,” she said.

Dr Watts said she feared a “similar fate” for the control tower to that of Central Pier and has called for Development Victoria to restore the heritage structure for public use. 

“This pattern of neglect in the Docklands Precinct is obvious and shameful. So much of the maritime heritage infrastructure underpinning Victoria’s prosperity has been simply dumped as scrap metal and timber.” •

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