The 36th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is currently underway in St Petersburg, Russia and will continue until 6 July 2012. A key issue on the agenda is conservation of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and in particular, the volume of shipping through the reef itself.
Over the past 12 months there have been numerous reports and statements made in relation to developments along the Queensland coast. Many of these have been based on a poor understanding of the mining industry in Queensland, particularly coal exports, associated port developments and related shipping activities.
In response, the Australian Coal Association, a member of the World Coal Association, has put together some key information on the Queensland coal industry and shipping in the region.
The Queensland minerals and energy sector fully acknowledges the concerns from the World Heritage Committee regarding Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and supports its protection as a site of Outstanding Universal Value. Nobody can dispute that the Great Barrier Reef is anything less than exceptional, in terms of size, beauty and biodiversity.
But UNESCO’s recommendation to tighten shipping movements and implement stricter controls around the reef will profoundly affect the coal industry in Queensland.
It is essential that the facts about the Queensland coal industry are clearly understood:
- Current exports of coal from Queensland are less than 200 million tonnes per year (mtpa).
- The current number of coal ships supporting this trade and travelling through the reef is around 2100.
- Coal exports by 2020 could potentially increase to 300-320mtpa. This forecast is supported by both industry and Australian Government analyses (see graph below).
- Future shipping associated with this export level will be between 4000-4600 ships per year depending on coal volumes and vessel sizes.
- Shipping through GBR is highly regulated and uses three main strictly controlled, designated routes.
- Port development to support this growth is focused on three existing ports: Abbot Point, Hay Point and Gladstone.
- Future developments at Abbot Point and Hay Point are undergoing wide-ranging, industry-led cumulative impact assessments. The Abbot Point study will be completed later this year.
- The level of scientific assessment and scrutiny of port development projects in Australia is the highest in the world.
These facts must form the basis for informing decisions and formulating plans to manage port developments and shipping risks to the reef.
A full stakeholder briefing produced by The Australian Coal Association is now available to read which contains supporting facts and information. Access the complete briefing here.