Sep 22, 2011

New laws to protect the Barrier Reef

New laws will be introduced today to increase the penalties for oil spills in the Great Barrier Reef to $11 million dollars.

The aim of the bill is to deter shipping companies and their crews from engaging in unsafe and irresponsible actions at sea, particularly near environmentally sensitive marine ecosystems.

The changes to the Navigation Act and Protection of the Seas Act will result in fewer risks being taken by the shipping industry, which will provide greater protection to the World Heritage Listed Barrier Reef.

While large incidents are rare, the potential impact of a spill would be significant, not only for the environment but also on our tourism and fishing industries.

The new laws follow a review of Australia’s maritime offences following last year’s grounding of the Shen Neng in the Great Barrier Reef.

The changes will increase the penalties for the discharge of oil or oil residues by ships in Australian waters from $1 million to $11 million.

The Gillard Labor Government is committed to protecting the Barrier Reef and improving safe navigation through the marine park.

In July this year, the Government extended the coverage of the Reef Vessel Traffic Service – which shows the best times and safest speeds for vessels to move through the area – to the southern boundary of the Reef.

We have also re-established the Great Barrier Reef Shipping Management Group to help prevent incidents like the Shen Neng in future.

There are over 25,000 voyages by ships to and around Australia each year and 99 percent of Australia’s international trade is carried by ships.

It’s important that we have strong safety regulations and penalties to ensure that shipping companies don’t ignore their responsibilities and we are doing everything possible to protect our most valuable environmental areas.