Great Barrier Reef shipping highways open
Two-way Great Barrier Reef shipping highways into Australia’s coal ports on the Queensland coast have been formally adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and will come into effect this week.
A third will open in June 2015, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
The route extends through the Great Barrier Reef from the western end of Torres Strait, the Prince of Wales Channel, then along the inner route, terminating on the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The two-way route is mostly unchanged from the current chart, which has been in use since the 1980s, but now extends further south.
Two-way routes aim to reduce the risk of groundings or collisions by restricting ships to designated lanes, while separating northbound and southbound traffic.
Both paper and electronic charts for the routes are available from the Australian Hydrographic Service.
A new two-way shipping route at the Jomard Entrance, Papua New Guinea, was also announced last month. It comes into effect in June 2015 and charts will be available in the coming weeks.
The Jomard Entrance is the favoured Asian route to and from Australia for Capesize and Panamax vessels, with an estimated 27 commercial vessels using the passage each day, according to AMSA data.
A growth study on North Queensland ship traffic commissioned by AMSA forecasts it will be used by 2,450 coal ships annually by 2020.
Australia monitors all shipping on the World Heritage-Listed reef, with two vessels penalised in the past year for going off course after failing to carry required charts and shipping plans.
The Australian Hydrographic Service completed electronic charting of the reef ship routes ahead of schedule in 2012. It has now been proposed that ships be vetted so that the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) is in use on the reef prior to the IMO deadline for cargo ships (2018).
AMSA CEO Mick Kinley told IHS Maritime he was surprised that while everyone has heard of the ECDIS revolution and e-navigation, they are failing to upgrade.
“The large amount of evidence we see is that ships won’t have the ECDIS fitted until the deadline,” he said.