Commercial vessels, cruise ships and ships on international voyages

Commercial vessels, cruise ships and ships on international voyages

Commercial vessels in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Vessel sewage regulations for the Marine Park do not place any additional requirements on commercial vessels regarding vessel sewage. However, vessels undertaking commercial activities in the Marine Park generally require written permission from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and/or the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

These permissions or permits may stipulate additional requirements for vessels to manage their sewage in some circumstances, for example, at tourist pontoons.

Maritime Safety Queensland has different requirements for commercial vessels.

Cruise ships in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

  1. The managing agencies encourage best practice waste management be undertaken by cruise ship operators and expect cruise ship operators will comply with all relevant Annexes of the International Marine Pollution Convention (MARPOL 73/78). These obligations are given effect in Australia by the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983* and in Queensland State waters by the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Act 1995.

    * Grey water and sewage are defined in this legislation.

  2. Due to the volume of cruise ship holding tanks, the managing agencies, in accordance with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) require:
    1. Treated sewage (from an International Maritime Organisation [IMO] approved plant) is only discharged from holding tanks when at least three nautical miles or 5.556 km seaward of a reef, island or mainland.
    2. Macerated and disinfected sewage (from an IMO approved plant) is not discharged in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Cruise ships must only discharge this type of sewage if located at least three nautical miles or 5.556 km from the seaward boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (which is taken as 'nearest land' by the IMO*).
    3. Untreated or treated sewage (from a non IMO approved plant) must not be discharged into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or an area at least 12 nautical miles or 22.224 km from the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

* ‘Nearest land’ boundary extends around the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef / Torres Strait region and, where MARPOL states a specific distance from land for a discharge to occur, this must be measured seaward from this boundary, and, where MARPOL does not state a distance, the discharge may be allowed, taking into consideration any additional requirements imposed by State legislation. ‘Discharge’ is at a prescribed moderate rate when the ship is en route and proceeding not less than four knots.

  1. In addition, due to concern about the tidal range and flow between all the small bays, reefs and islands, managing agencies require through permission conditions that any waste is not discharged when operating within the Whitsunday Planning Area.

Ships on international voyages

All ships engaged in international voyages (including cruise ships and trading ships) have to comply with all relevant Annexes of the International Marine Pollution Convention (MARPOL 73/78).

For more details on these requirements please visit the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website.

Cruise ship operations within the Great Barrier Reef