Cairns Shipping Development Project

July 2016: The proponent is preparing a varied draft environmental impact statement (EIS).

About the proposal

The Far North Queensland Queensland Ports Corporation Ltd (trading as Ports North) is seeking upgrades to existing port infrastructure in Cairns to allow larger vessels to enter, particularly cruise ships.

The upgrades include:

  • widening and deepening  the existing outer shipping channel and cruise shipping swing basin, which will result in lengthening the existing channel
  • widening and deepening the existing inner harbour channel and establishing a new shipping swing basin to enable future expansion of the HMAS Cairns Navy base
  • a structural upgrade of the existing cruise shipping wharves 1-5 to accommodate larger and heavier cruise ships
  • provision and upgrade of ship services to the cruise shipping wharves, including fuel supply, potable water and fire fighting services
  • removal of approximately 5 million cubic metres of capital dredge material and 580,000 cubic metres of maintenance dredge material (annually)
  • expansion of the existing Dredge Material Placement Area boundaries within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to accommodate dredged material from capital and maintenance dredging.

About the area

The Port of Cairns is located in the heart of Cairns in North Queensland. The main shipping berths lie on the western side of Trinity Inlet, and access between the sea and the port is via an existing outer channel approximately 11.2 kilometres in length and 90 metres wide with a declared depth of -8.3 m LAT. The inner channel extends for 2.4 kilometres in length and has variable width due to requirements for bends and swing basins.

The application requirements

The proposal was determined to be a controlled action by the former Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on 4 October 2012, as it was recognised the project could have a significant impact on a number of matters of national environmental significance.

View the full referral application, decision and assessment approach documents

On 24 September 2012, the Coordinator-General declared the project to be a ‘significant project’ under section 26(1)(a) of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld) which requires the proponent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project.

Application for a Marine Parks permission

The proposed action will require a permit under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, as components of the development are proposed to be located in the Marine Park. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) will assess the application, in accordance with the following legislation:

The agency will also provide advice to the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy on matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act.

Environmental impact statement assessment process

Far North Queensland Ports Corporation Ltd is required to prepare an environmental impact statement, describing the potential impact the project could have on the environment. The proponent is preparing the draft environmental impact statement.

GBRMPA assessment

GBRMPA will assess the application in accordance with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983, noting:

  • Mandatory considerations (Regulation 88Q): This includes, among others, the impact of the proposed action on the environment, social, cultural and heritage values of the Marine Park, written comments received about the application in response to the public advertisement, and other matters relevant to the orderly and proper management of the Marine Park.
  • Discretionary considerations (Regulation 88R): This includes the impact the proposed action will have on the public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the Marine Park, and any cumulative impacts of the proposed action.

The agency will consider the impacts of the proposal on all aspects of the Marine Park, including matters raised in public submissions.


The proposal will be assessed in accordance with GBRMPA’s policies and management approaches including our: