New Two-Way Route in Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait
On 23 May, the 93rd session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 93) adopted a new two-way route in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait.
This important measure to protect the environmentally sensitive waters of the region will come into effect on 1 December 2014.
In 2013, the proposed route was reviewed by IMO Member States and international organisations and was approved for consideration by MSC 93.
The marine environment off Australia’s north-east is recognised for its unique physical, ecological and heritage values and rich marine biodiversity that includes a diverse array of marine species. It is afforded protection under various national and international laws. The Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait are both declared Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) by the IMO. The Great Barrier Reef is also recognised as an iconic World Heritage property by UNESCO, for which its outstanding universal value is protected under national environment law.
The ship routing measure, arguably the world’s longest, aims to reduce the risk of collisions and groundings by encouraging ships to follow well-defined lanes. It will help ensure ships keep clear of the numerous shoals, reefs and islands that lie close outside the two-way route. The route will also provide greater certainty to small vessels as to where they can expect to encounter large vessels.
Preparation of Australia’s submission involved close cooperation with Australian and state government agencies, in particular the Australian Hydrographic Service, Geoscience Australia, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and Maritime Safety Queensland.
Press Release, July 1, 2014