Commercial and non-commercial use
in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that are currently under assessment include (but are not limited to): Cairns shipping development project (five million cubic metres); Townsville port expansion (5.7 million cubic metres); and expansions of the Dudgeon Point coal port facility (up to 13 million cubic metres) and the Port of Gladstone (up to 12 million cubic metres). Management All the ports of the Great Barrier Reef are managed by four Port Authorities, which are Queensland Government-owned corporations. Port activities are governed by local, state, national and international requirements including for protection of the environment from dredging and dredge material disposal, waste, pollution and introduced marine pests. The International Maritime Organisation requires that Australia, as a party to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex V, provides adequate waste reception facilities at all ports. Ships are encouraged to report ports that do not provide an adequate service, which are then investigated and reported to the International Maritime Organisation.
Figure 5.17 Dredge material disposal, Great Barrier reef World heritage area, 2001–2013
The graph shows volumes of dredge material disposed in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area between 2001 and 2013. Source:
Data derived from the International Maritime Organisation sea disposal reports submitted to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Australian Government Department of the Environment
Proposals for port development, including dredging and disposal of dredge material in the Region, are assessed under Commonwealth and Queensland legislation including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and the Environment Protection (Sea Disposal) Act 1981, as appropriate. The National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 200997 are considered in assessing applications. The National Ports Strategy98 includes initiatives to improve integrated planning and environmental management regimes. The 2014 Queensland Ports Strategy99 is expected to critically influence future planning and management of ports in and adjacent to the Region, including environmental protection arrangements. The Strategy foreshadows that significant port development will be prioritised and consolidated in major port areas, restricting significant port development (within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area) to within existing major port limits for the next 10 years until 2022.91 The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has a policy100 that guides assessment and management processes for dredging and dredge material disposal. It includes restrictions on: the location of dredging and dredge material disposal; contaminated dredge material disposal; and annual volumes of sea disposal within the Marine Park. It supports long-term planning to minimise impacts.
5.5.2 Benefits of ports
The economic contribution of Great Barrier Reef ports is increasing.
As an island nation, Australia is dependent on maritime trade. Consequently, ports and their associated infrastructure are of significant economic and social importance to Australia. A number of Queensland’s ports, including those in and adjacent to the Region, are nationally significant for cargo throughputs90 and contributions to the national economy. The value of goods shipped from ports adjacent to the Region is approximately $40 billion each year.101 Their increasing throughput makes it likely that the economic contribution of Great Barrier Reef ports has increased since 2009.
5.5.3 Impacts of ports
Impacts to the marine environment from the installation and maintenance of port infrastructure and general port operations include clearing and modifying coastal habitats; disturbance, displacement, dredging, disposal and resuspension of dredge material; injury and death of wildlife; the risk of large and small