The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Sea Dumping Act) regulates the disposal of vessels at sea. If you wish to dispose of vessels at sea, you will require a sea dumping permit.
Past activities that have been granted a permit for sea dumping include:
- sinking apprehended vessels, (e.g. illegal foreign fishing and suspected illegal entrant vessels), when the vessel is unseaworthy or incapable of being transported to an Australian port or presents a quarantine risk
- use of ship hulks for live-fire military weapons practice.
Permits are necessary to ensure that materials are adequately prepared, dumped at appropriate sites and that there are no significant adverse impacts on the marine environment or other marine users.
Ideally, sea disposal sites should be in deep water and far from coastal communities. Sea disposal should not occur in areas frequented by other marine users (e.g., shipping, deep sea trawling).
Disposal sites should also be chosen to minimise disturbances to the environment and bio-physical and ecological processes. Features to be aware of include species' migration routes, spawning and breeding areas, seamounts and underwater canyons and trenches, reefs, shoals, cays, and islands.
An example of a preferred sea disposal site would be a location with waters at least 2,000 metres deep, at least 50 nautical miles (nm) from the coast and at least 20 nm from the nearest historic shipwreck, sub-sea cable, pipeline, oil/gas well, reef, seamount, bank or shoal. The site would also be clear of normal shipping routes and active marine fauna migration routes and breeding areas.
Before dumping, the vessel must be cleared of material or contaminants that may pose an environmental, safety or quarantine risk.
This includes pollutants and materials that may float and represent an ingestion or entanglement hazard to marine fauna or impact hazard to vessels.
Due attention must also be given to polluting and buoyant substances that are released as a result of damage to the structure during placement or due to breakdown following long-term immersion.
In some cases, other Commonwealth legislation may need to be considered in parallel with, or may take precedence over, the Sea Dumping Act, e.g., fisheries, customs and quarantine legislation may apply in cases involving apprehended foreign fishing vessels. Sea dumping activities may also require approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Permit application form and fee
The application fee for a permit to dump vessels at sea is $12,700. For more information on how to pay the fee, visit: how to apply for a sea dumping permit.
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