Frequently asked questions

Why are Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority requirements different?

Vessel sewage regulations for the Marine Park were introduced on 1 January 2005. At that time, the regulations for the discharge of vessel sewage were aligned with those of Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Queensland legislation has progressively changed regarding vessel operating requirements, with the final phase commencing on 1 January 2010. This phase focused on vessels with more than six persons onboard and mainly applied to the discharge of untreated sewage.

What are the differences between coastal waters and the Marine Park?

Maritime Safety Queensland has legislation regarding discharge in Queensland coastal waters which is from the mean low water mark to an approximate distance of the three nautical mile limit that excludes Hervey Bay waters, northern Moreton Bay waters, designated prohibited discharge waters, and smooth waters.

Legislation administered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) also covers these waters from the mean low water mark (jointly managed with the Queensland Government) and extends to the outer boundary of the Reef.

Refer to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park map which shows boundaries of the Marine Park and World Heritage Area.

Vessel sewage discharge restriction maps are available on the Maritime Safety Queensland website. 

I am operating a tourism business in the Whitsundays. Which regulations do I have to abide by?

The Whitsunday area is within coastal waters and hence falls under both the GBRMPA and Queensland Government jurisdiction. It is therefore necessary that all vessels operating in the Whitsundays are familiar with both sets of regulations. For information on the Queensland requirements visit the Maritime Safety Queensland website. For information on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority requirements refer to the commercial vessels section of this website.

All vessels and particularly tourism vessel operations should adopt Responsible Reef Practices to protect one of the greatest natural areas under their care — The Great Barrier Reef. All operators are encouraged to use pump-out facilities.

Please visit Onboard the Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef, to find out how you can implement Responsible Reef Practices.

Where can I pump out vessel sewage?

Tourism operators and recreational users are encouraged to use pump-out facilities as much as practicable. The number of marinas and ports offering pump-out facilities is increasing. Check with your regular port of call to see if they have a pump-out facility or are planning to install one in the near future.

Maritime Safety Queensland has up to date information regarding marinas and ports that offer pump-out facilities and indicate planned installations for the future.

What type of treatment system should I buy for my fixed toilet?

A treatment system manufacturer should be able to advise you on the capabilities of a range of treatment systems and help you to determine the best one for your vessel. Generally, tertiary treatment systems remove at least 90 per cent of the nutrients present in the sewage. Grade A and Grade B systems macerate, disinfect and remove some of the nutrients in the sewage while Grade C systems tend only to macerate and disinfect the sewage.

What are the fines for discharging vessel sewage in the wrong places?

A penalty of A$5500 applies to person/s engaged in unlawful conduct causing the discharge of sewage in, or into, the Marine Park.

Please contact your local Maritime Safety Queensland office for further details on the penalties for discharging vessel sewage in the wrong place within Queensland coastal waters.