In Australia the loading and disposal at sea of dredged material are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Sea Dumping Act). Therefore, organisations wishing to dispose of dredged material at sea will require a sea dumping permit.
Permits are required to ensure that the impacts of dredged material disposal have been adequately assessed and, when ocean disposal is permitted, that impacts are managed responsibly and effectively. Permit applications are assessed under a regulatory framework, which encompasses evaluating disposal alternatives and waste minimisation procedures, site and impact assessments and management and monitoring programs.
Dredging in Australian waters occurs in a diverse range of environments. Some marine environments are more sensitive than others (e.g. coral reefs, fish nursery areas). These sensitive areas require a high level of protection and/or management.
Dredging may involve both clean and contaminated sediments. Sediments are unlikely to contain contaminants if they are dredged from areas remote from pollution sources. However, in ports and harbours adjacent to urbanised or industrialised areas, sediments may contain high levels of contamination from heavy metals or organic compounds. Contaminated sediments require special attention.
Port operators account for the majority of sea dumping permit applications. Ports are fundamental to Australia's economy and well-planned dredging activities, in conjunction with timely and effective environmental assessments, are essential to maximise the efficiency of our ports.
The regulatory framework seeks to balance the needs of ports with the protection of the marine environment and the interests of other stakeholders. It provides for the case-by-case assessment of individual dredging proposals, but also encourages longer-term strategic planning. This approach aims to align the needs and goals of ports with our shared objective of protecting Australia's marine environment.
Detailed information is available in the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009.
Application forms and fees
Applications for 10 year permits to dispose of maintenance dredge material at sea will require a Long Term Monitoring and Management Plan.
Officers assessing Long Term Monitoring and Management Plans will use a checklist for guidance.
For information on how to apply for a permit and associated fees visit our Sea dumping permits page.