North East Shipping Management Plan (2019) – July 2022 update

The North-East Shipping Management Plan (NE SMP) identifies actions based on information regarding the nature of shipping activity in the north-east region.

The plan separates actions into three groups: 

  • Medium term, a duration of one to three years (six monthly reporting), 
  • Long term, a duration of three to five years (annual reporting), and 
  • Foundational, ongoing, business as usual practices (annual reporting). 

The July 2021 update is available at: 

The following table provides an update of the medium term, long term and foundational actions in the NE SMP.   

Medium Term Actions 
Description Lead Agency Update 


Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to investigate mechanisms to fund high priority restoration and rehabilitation of reef habitats following a ship grounding. 


Parks Australia 

Supported by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 

Queensland Ports Association 


Maritime Safety Queensland 

Parks Australia is awaiting the realignment of responsibility for this work within the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). 

In 2021 Parks Australia developed a project to support the development of an effective Commonwealth response to future serious maritime incidents that damage the physical marine environment. This work was undertaken on behalf of what is now DCCEEW. The project sought to establish the following: 

  • A robust mechanism enabling a successful Commonwealth litigation strategy to assign financial liability to shipowners and insurers for the damage caused to the environment. 
  • An established financial mechanism to rapidly access and utilise funds to undertake assessments, collect evidence and conduct time-critical remediation of the site. 
  • Policies and procedures that work harmoniously with the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies and support and supplement key agencies in their response to an incident.  

The Parks Australia Project Board identified that this work should occur within the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (now DCCEEW). This decision reflects the need for an Environment portfolio solution; the proposed approach’s reliance upon broad powers under the EPBC Act and access to departmental funds; and, the need for extensive inter-agency engagement.   

The project has finalised legal advice around the matters of the Commonwealth environment as property and the subsequent applicability of liability limits under the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims. 

Stakeholders include, but are not limited to, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; AMSA; Director of National Parks; Australian Government Solicitor; Attorney General’s Department; CSIRO; Australian Institute of Marine Science; Department of Finance and Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. 

NE SMP 11 

Government agencies and industry to evaluate the safety and environmental benefits and viability of a vessel arrival system at commodities ports where ships spend extended periods at anchor. 

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland, 

Queensland Ports Association, 


Queensland Resources Council 


AMSA has continued to share the study commissioned to quantify the effect of the Vessel Arrival System (VAS) at the Port of Newcastle in reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In January 2022, the study was also provided to the Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping (Low Carbon GIA), a public-private partnership, established under the IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project. The Low Carbon GIA is finalising a report on the emission reduction potential of VAS for the entire global container shipping sector and is now shifting attention to the global bulk sector.    

AMSA has continued to engage with the Queensland Government and ports on VAS, with several meetings to discuss the VAS concept. These discussions identified key objectives and steps that would be needed to progress with VAS identified under this action to work collaboratively to evaluate the safety and environmental benefits and viability of a VAS at bulk ports adjacent to the reef.  

AMSA is also in discussions with the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water regarding the VAS related strategic action identified in the 2021 Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050). 

Long Term Actions 
Description Lead Agency Update 


Queensland port authorities to investigate and implement where appropriate, systems that reward ships for having higher safety and environmental standards. 


Queensland Ports Association (QPA) 

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) 

QPA has collaborated with Ports Australia to ensure a national approach can be being considered, as the intended outcomes are broader than just ports in the Great Barrier Reef region. 

Ports Australia has conducted a brief analysis of shipping incentive schemes used internationally, and will now liaise with QPA, MSQ and AMSA to examine the findings and determine an appropriate path forward. 

QPA advises the action will require additional time and should be changed to long term. 


Drawing on the work done to date, further investigate the opportunities for conducting research on the impacts of ship anchorages at major commodity ports. 

Queensland Ports Association  


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland  


Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment 

Work is currently underway on vessel data collection and background research regarding current operational approaches to anchorages giving consideration to the 2013 reports. QPA has commissioned Sprott Planning & Environment Pty Ltd to assist with this study, along with the GBRMPA.   

There has been some delays in accessing data, however the Recommendations Report is being drafted and is expected to be finalised by the end of 2022. 


The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to keep under review modelling and assessments of risk of ship strike on cetaceans in the north-east region. As the degree of risk warrants, the results would be used to design and implement appropriate safeguards. (Link to SMP 10) 


Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water  

Supported by  


Maritime Safety Queensland 


the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 

On 29 March 2019, the Marine Biodiversity Hub’s National Environmental Science Program published their report ‘quantification of risk from shipping to large marine fauna across Australia’.  

This project combined existing data such as vessel density, speed and noise levels with species distribution/habitat models to identify Biological Important Areas and produce fine-scale relative spatial risk profiles. These risk profiles can be used to help identify when and where marine fauna and shipping may overlap, and to work through a question and answer process designed to help minimise risk. This includes evaluating relative risk, research and resourcing options, and the likely effects of management and mitigation approaches. 

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is monitoring work being done overseas and looking for opportunities to draw any lessons applicable to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. For example: 

The National Strategy for Reducing Vessel Strike on Cetaceans and other Marine Megafauna remains the guiding framework for identifying species most at risk of vessel collision; areas where these species are most at risk of vessel collision and appropriate mitigation measures to reduce the risk of vessel collisions with marine megafauna.   

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is also developing National Underwater Anthropogenic Noise Guidelines to assist proponents and regulators manage the impact of anthropogenic noise, including shipping noise, on threatened and migratory species such as cetaceans.  


AMSA to investigate if the shape and energy of waves generated by passing ships influence coastal erosion in the Torres Strait. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  

Supported by Torres Strait Regional Authority 

AMSA visited Poruma Island (also known as Coconut Island) in July 2019 and met with resident elders to discuss potential impacts of ship wake induced waves. A detailed study was subsequently undertaken with the technical assistance of Queensland Government Hydraulics Laboratory, Department of Environment and (QGHL), and commissioned by AMSA. 

This study sought to investigate the potential impact of wake from ships transiting the Great North East Channel, on Poruma Island.  The project has been underway for approximately 2.5 years and a visit to Poruma by QGHL occurred in the first half of 2020 to quantify the nature of any impacts ship wake induced waves on the island’s shoreline.  The final report by QGHL was accepted by AMSA in May 2021. 

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, AMSA was unable to share the results with the Poruma Island community in person immediately after the finalisation of the report.  However, AMSA has working with the Poruma community to arrange an in-person briefing on the study findings since approximately October 2021. AMSA has now visited Poruma Island and discussed the results.   

It is AMSA’s intention to meet with the community to discuss the results and facilitate the sharing of the report more broadly with relevant stakeholders, including the Torres Strait Regional Authority which was involved in initial planning phases of the project. 

Foundational Actions 
Description Lead Agency Update 


AMSA to continue to work through the International Maritime Organization to seek improvement to standards that impact upon ship propulsion reliability and redundancy and emergency towing arrangements. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

AMSA regularly attends and contributes to the work of International Maritime Organization committees and sub-committees on these matters. The forums include:  

  • Maritime Safety Committee 
  • Maritime Environment Protection Committee 
  • Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response 
  • Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction 


AMSA to undertake initiatives focused on the contribution of the human element to shipping incidents and address ways of reducing risk. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

For the 2021-2022 financial year, AMSA has published the following Maritime Safety Awareness Bulletins: 

  • Issue 14 – Navigation Safety, focusing on issues associated with the use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) 
  • Issue 15 – Hours of work and rest, focusing on the impact of fatigue and the need for companies to address fatigue proactively. 

The Shipping Inspection team undertook a focused inspection campaign on safety of navigation – the outcomes of this FIC can be found on the AMSA website here but as an overview it was conducted from 1 August - 8 September 2021 - AMSA inspected 266 vessels and detained 7 vessels.   

AMSA’s National Compliance Plan for 2022-23 has also been published. This Plan outlines the focus areas for the year ahead which will be the subject of targeted education and compliance activities by AMSA. These focus areas are informed by the analysis of marine incident and inspection data and are intended to address emerging trends in risks to safety.  

For the 2022-23 financial year, the focus areas broadly relate to:  

  • planned maintenance  
  • fire safety  
  • watertight and weathertight integrity  
  • cargo securing  
  • newly in-effect crew certification requirements under Marine Order 505 (Certificates of competency)  
  • risk assessments  
  • onboard familiarisation  
  • overdue periodic surveys  
  • inadvertent beacon alerts.  


AMSA to promote the use of high quality ships, operated by competent crews, to trade in the region by stringently enforcing standards in compliance with International Maritime Organization guidelines for port State control.  


AMSA to maintain and publish a Compliance and Enforcement policy that applies to ships regulated under the Navigation Act 2012 and Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law 2012. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

AMSA employs 11 Port Marine Surveyors (PMS) at 5 ports in the north east. Our surveyors carry out PSC inspections as well as: 

  • flag State control inspections, 
  • marine surveys, 
  • cargo related inspections, and 
  • marine qualification duties. 

All marine surveyors have a ships master or chief engineer qualification and/or a related degree. All surveyors must pass comprehensive training in ship inspection procedures before becoming an inspector. They also act as examiners, auditors and investigators when required. Surveyors are regularly audited in line with: 

  • ISO accreditation for Quality Management (AS/NZ ISO 9001:208) 
  • environmental management (AS/NZ ISO 14001:2004), and 
  • workplace health and safety (AS/NZ 4801:2001). 

AMSA has published the "Compliance and Enforcement Policy 2020" on its website.    

The objectives of this policy are to: 

  • support the objects of the maritime safety legislation, 
  • encourage compliance with the maritime safety legislation through application of a cooperative regulatory approach which builds effective compliance performance capacity, 
  • enable AMSA to identify, prevent and manage contraventions of the maritime safety legislation and the associated risks to safety, the environment and Australia’s reputation, and 
  • facilitate consistent decision making. 


AMSA to continue its technical cooperation on maritime standards and technologies with neighbouring countries and particularly with Papua New Guinea (PNG) to ensure ships and crews operate to the highest international ship safety standards. 

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

AMSA (AMSA) continues to assist PNG National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) to: 

  • Review and update PNG’s domestic maritime legislation to ensure it fully reflects the requirements of international maritime and marine environment protection standards; and 
  • Improve the capability of NMSA staff to conduct Port State Control and Flag State Control inspections to an internationally recognised standard. 

AMSA is also supporting the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) with access to the Australian Cooperative Data Centre to receive Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) data to improve marine domain awareness within the Solomon Islands maritime jurisdiction. 


Government agencies to work with the Australian Hydrographic Office to identify areas of the north-east region that will benefit from improved hydrography and oceanographic observations. 


The Australian Hydrographic Office 

The Australian Hydrographic Office has established a HydroScheme Review Panel, to guide the prioritisation of hydrographic surveys for nautical charting purposes. In bringing together key program stakeholders, the HydroScheme Review Panel provides a focal point for prioritisation of survey effort and to minimise duplication of efforts across jurisdictions and programs. 

Government agencies and other organisations have an opportunity to submit survey requests, through the AusSeabed Survey Coordination Tool, which are then risk assessed and prioritised by the panel. 

Under the HydroScheme Industry Partnership Program (HIPP), modern resurvey of the Prince of Wales Channel and Great North East Channel has been undertaken, with resurvey of the route from Hay Point through Hydrographers Passage currently under contract. Survey has also recently been undertaken in the vicinity of Cape Melville and Howick Group to enhance the safety of navigation in these areas. 


AMSA and Maritime Safety Queensland will continue to apply a risk-based approach to managing shipping related risks stemming from changes in shipping density and the profile of ships calling at Queensland ports and transiting through the waters of the north-east. 


(Linked to NE SMP 4 Pilotage action) 

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  


Maritime Safety Queensland 

In December 2020 Maritime Safety Queensland introduced the new VTS Decision Report Tool (VTS DST) SAAB's MaritimeControl which is a critical system that manages shipping risks in the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Queensland ports by monitoring, in real time, the movement of large ships, and interacting where it identifies a situation developing.   

To further enhance the monitoring of vessels within the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait VTS area, operations have now been split between Gladstone and Townsville. The splitting of operations from one centre to two occurred in September 2021 and was dependant on the implementation of the new VTS Decision Support Tool (DST). The new model also delivers much greater redundancy for Reef VTS as each centre is capable of taking over the other centres sector where required, due to extreme weather or other extenuating circumstances. 


AMSA to continue to consult with all relevant aids to navigation stakeholders in the north-east and ensure access arrangements for aids to navigation maintenance are practical and within agreed environmental parameters. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland 

AMSA’s aids to navigation maintenance contractor undertakes regular reviews of their practices used to maintain the aids to navigation network in consultation with stakeholders in the north-east.  

A site induction is required for all personnel on mobilisation to site, which includes information on significant habitats, waste management, biological controls and reporting of environmental incidents. Site inspection reports contain a section on environmental management which triggers a review of the environmental aspects of each site and identifies areas for improvement and innovative ideas and practices. 

The contractor’s maintenance activities are governed by an environmental management system in accordance with ISO14001.  


AMSA, in conjunction with shipping interests and pilotage providers, to review, as needs dictate, the effectiveness of Under Keel Clearance Management arrangements in Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  

Supported by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 

As previously reported, the prevailing draught regime for vessels transiting the Torres Strait was successfully increased in 2021 to a maximum draught of 12.5m. This increase followed extensive full-scale trials ‘at sea’ to verify the accuracy of AMSA’s UKCM system for vessels with different hull profiles and draughts up to 12.5m. 

More recently, as part of the Australian Hydrographic Service’s Hydrographic Industry Partnership Program (HIPP), a detailed hydrographic survey of the UKCM system’s area of operations (AO) was conducted across Torres Strait in 2021/22.  

The survey, conducted at AMSA’s request, will provide updated bathymetric (depth profile) information to underpin the accuracy of UKC calculations made by the UKCM system.  

Once finalised and available, the survey data will provide greater certainty regarding the prevailing bathymetry in the region, which may then provide the basis for considering future changes to simplify and standardise the minimum UKC requirements for transits of Torres Strait.  

As part of the review of Marine Order 54 Coastal pilotage 2014 (MO54), potential exists to move to a flat 1m minimum UKC requirement for all applicable vessels, throughout all areas covered by the UKCM system. This option will be considered as part of the legislative review process for MO54 in 2022/23. 


AMSA to continue to work with government agencies and Queensland port authorities to encourage the improvement and use of waste facilities in line with International Maritime Organization guidelines and information. 



The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland  


the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 

AMSA has obtained funding from the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water under the National Waste Policy Action Plan, to investigate opportunities for the recycling of waste from international ships at Australian ports. This will build on work conducted in 2018 with several Queensland ports, and will further investigate the feasibility of recycling clean and segregated waste from international ships at Australian ports and establish a nationally consistent framework to support this activity in the longer term. 


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to share lessons learnt from the restoration of habitats affected by shipping incidents (e.g. coral and seagrass restoration, eradication of marine pests, and halt impacts from biocides). 


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority  

Supported by Australian Reef Pilots 

The Douglas Shoal Environmental Remediation Project is currently negotiating with the preferred contractor to remediate the shoal following the grounding of the bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 in 2010. The focus is on removing loose rubble and contaminated sediment that are preventing natural recovery. Substantial information is available on the project website, including reports, raw data, and imagery.  

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will continue to share lessons learned as this project progresses and has allocated funds for long-term monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of the remediation. 


AMSA to assess the availability of HNS cargo information currently available from ships in the region in the event of an incident. If necessary, AMSA to seek to amend the requirement of the mandatory ship reporting system REEFREP to require all ships to which REEFREP applies to report further details of the carriage of Hazardous Noxious Substances. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  

Supported by Torres Pilots 

AMSA domain awareness system has the capability to filter all vessels carrying dangerous goods based on the information contained in vessels’ Automatic Identification systems (AIS).  

Torres Pilots advised that for each voyage booked, the vessel is asked to declare all dangerous goods and/or hazardous substances being carried including. 

Maritime Safety Queensland also advised that the ports arrival booking system asks for notification if the ship is carrying dangerous goods and Maritime Safety Queensland have the ability to seek a manifest through the agent if required. 

The REEFREP pre-entry report requires vessels to ‘give the normal name of cargo and state whether it is classified as hazardous’. 

Marine Order 41 requires masters to ‘provide to an AMSA office, at or nearest to the port of loading, a special list or manifest for dangerous goods at least 24 hours before dangerous goods are loaded on the vessel.’ 


Maritime Safety Queensland, port authorities and AMSA are to ensure they have adequate response assets and emergency towage capabilities and that they undertake training that targets responses to search and rescue incidents, maritime casualties and ship-sourced oil and chemical spills. 


Maritime Safety Queensland  

Supported by  



Queensland Ports Association 

Maritime Safety Queensland and Queensland based response partners maintain stockpiles of strategically located, pre-positioned marine pollution response equipment. Maritime Safety Queensland delivers an annual marine pollution response training and exercise program. AMSA continues to maintain a national stockpile in Townsville to support response operations in the Great Barrier Reef. 

Maritime Safety Queensland is working with the AMSA and other states to review the efficacy of the National Plan for Marine Environmental Emergencies. AMSA has finalised and published a planning framework to guide preparations and management of complex maritime emergencies. 

AMSA has the emergency towage vessel ‘Coral Knight’ permanently stationed in the northern portion of the Great Barrier Reef. The ‘Coral Knight’ is also equipped to respond to other maritime incidents such as search and rescue or limiting the effects of ship-sourced pollution of the sea and carries oil pollution response equipment. 


Members will seek opportunities to promote the communication of accurate and factual information about shipping activities and relevant initiatives in the Great Barrier Reef area. 


All Members 

This action item was re-worded by the NE SMG in March 2020 

From October to December 2019, the AMSA ran a safety awareness campaign targeting dory reef line fishing activities in Queensland’s offshore waters.  

The Australian and Queensland governments are updating the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan as part of the first five yearly comprehensive review. Click here for further information on the review

In February 2020, Maritime Safety Queensland conducted a multi-jurisdictional ship-sourced marine pollution response exercise in Mackay to help ensure Queensland is prepared to respond in the event of an incident, such as an oil spill. Click here for a video of the exercise

In February 2020, Maritime Safety Queensland released a draft ship vetting guideline for bulk carriers transiting the Great Barrier Reef for public consultation. Maritime Safety Queensland is currently reviewing and assessing the feedback provided. Click here for further updates

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s joint Interventions Policy provides direction on assessing, developing and implementing restoration or adaptation activities in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Click here for more information


Identify and implement marine biosecurity best practice management and early detection marine pest surveillance at key Queensland Ports.  


Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries  

Supported by Queensland Ports Association 

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is implementing an ‘early detection marine pest surveillance pilot program’ at the ports of Brisbane, Gladstone, Townsville, Mackay and Cairns.  Surveillance methods include settlement plates, plankton samples and shoreline searches and will use molecular analysis techniques to detect the presence of DNA of target pest species.  


Maintain communications with agencies with interests in higher-risk ships transiting the Torres Strait and the Coral Sea but not calling at an Australian port. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  


Maritime Safety Queensland 

In July 2019, the National Plan Strategic Coordination Committee released the final report of the National Plan ‘Exercise Torres 2018’. This exercise in the Torres Strait and Kaiwalagal Region, focused on the interaction of the Queensland maritime incident and disaster management arrangements with the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies

Maritime Safety Queensland subsequently met with regional disaster management groups to progress the implementation of the recommendations from the report.  


AMSA to keep under review the use of AIS on non-SOLAS commercial ships operating in the Great Barrier Reef. 


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority  

Supported by Maritime Safety Queensland 

AMSA continues to explore opportunities to enhance the safety of non-SOLAS commercial vessels operating in the region. The carriage of Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a prime example.   

However, AMSA recognises introducing any regulatory change must be carefully managed.  And it needs to be considered alongside broader regulatory changes in this area, through the review of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012.  Changes that deliver the most significant benefits should be prioritised. 


Taking into account increases in traffic density and resultant changes in risk, Maritime Safety Queensland and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to investigate the benefits of REEFVTS and mandatory pilotage supporting shipping for the areas of the upper middle Inner Route. 


Maritime Safety Queensland 


the Australian Maritime Safety Authority 

Supported by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 


AMSA analysed historic vessel traffic data for the period 2016 to 2022 to determine if there has been a change in traffic density in the upper middle sections of the Inner Route. The results of this analysis suggest there is no statistically significant change in traffic density. 

AMSA and MSQ will continue to monitor traffic density in the region. 

REEFVTS and mandatory pilotage continue to provide appropriate and proportionate risk mitigation for shipping in this area. 

Last updated: 12 October 2023