Commercial shipping is vital to Queensland’s economy. To cater for this industry, there are 10 major trading ports and two minor ones along the Great Barrier Reef coast.
The waters surrounding most of these ports fall within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, but not within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
All 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 those relating to dredging and dredge material disposal, waste, pollution and introduced marine pests.
The Queensland Government developed a Ports Strategy 2014 for managing the state's ports over the next decade.
This strategy prohibits dredging for the development of new or expanded existing port facilities outside the long-established port areas of Townsville, Abbot Point, Hay Point/Mackay and Gladstone for the next 10 years.
Impacts 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 chemical and oil spills; and some contribution to marine debris.
Noise pollution associated with general port activities such as pile driving may be affecting marine life, however little is known of its effects in the Great Barrier Reef region.