New Ship Routing Measures to Protect Australia’s Coral Sea Agreed by IMO

Coral Sea photo courtesy AMSA
Coral Sea photo courtesy AMSA

New ship routing measures aimed at protecting environmentally sensitive areas in Coral Sea, home to the Great Barrier Reef, have been agreed by the IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR).

The proposed ship routing measures include two new five nautical mile wide two-way routes, located on either side of the area to be avoided. Map: IMO
The proposed ship routing measures include two new five nautical mile wide two-way routes, located on either side of the area to be avoided. Map: IMO

During its 2nd session held March 9-13, the NCSR sub-committee agreed to a recommended “Area to Be Avoided” as well as two-way shipping routes proposed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). The goal of the proposal is to reduce the risk of ship collisions by separating opposing ship traffic, while ensuring ships keep clear of environmentally sensitive areas, such as reefs, shoals and islets, in Australia’s Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

The new area will cover approximately 564,000 square kilometers in the south-west Coral Sea and includes a number of shipping hazards not covered by the current arrangements, the AMSA says.

AMSA submitted the proposals, known as “Associated Protective Measures”, linked to a proposal to extend the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) eastwards to parts of the Coral Sea. The PSSA extension proposal will be submitted by Australia to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in May 2015 for consideration.

The proposed ships routing measures will be submitted to IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 95) in June for adoption.

In 1990, the Great Barrier Reef became the first “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” to be designated by IMO. The extension of the existing Great Barrier Reef PSSA to include the Torres Strait (Australia and Papua New Guinea) was later designated in 2005. They are two of the 14 PSSAs designated by IMO to date.

Video: Coral Sea Particularly Sensitive Area