Coal & the marine environment

Since January 1 2015, international coal shipments have been subject to new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations.

The regulations fall under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) code.

Coal Classification Reports

The WCA has published three reports to help members and non-members understand the implications of the regulations. The reports include details such as background information on the MARPOL Convention, classification criteria of solid bulk cargoes, recommended coal classification strategies, analysis of the chemical composition of different types of coal in line with the MARPOL Convention and IMSBC Code classifications and recommendations for human health and environmental hazard assessment. All of the reports are available to download, for free, from this page.

  • Report 1: New compliance requirements of the MARPOL Convention and the IMSBC Code
  • Report 2: Analysis of Coal Composition, Ecotoxicity and Human Health Hazards
  • Report 3: Coal Classification Guidance

A summary report is also available.

  • Coal classification reports
  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • Resources
  • Environment news

Photo courtesy of Assocarboni

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a vibrant ecosystem under threat from climate change, river runoff and pollution, and has lost half its coral cover over the past 27 years. The loss was due to storm damage (48%), crown of thorns starfish (42%), and bleaching (10%).

Queensland, where the Reef is located, is a key location for mineral resources in Australia. Export industries in the state include coal, gold, silver, copper, lead, nickel and bauxite, amongst others. Ports and shipping therefore form a large part of the region's economy.

The Queensland coal sector has been quick to respond to the challenge of ensuring strong coexistence between an essential export industry and the world heritage values of the Reef. Shipping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is managed by the most sophisticated and advanced maritime safety surveillance system called REEFVTS, which includes 24-hour tracking of large vessels throughout the Reef. Ships must use designated channels, are guided by port and reef pilots and are subject to independent vetting of their quality and of their crews.

More information on coal shipping and the Great Barrier Reef is available from the Queensland Resources Council website.


Report 1: New Compliance Requirements of the MARPOL Convention and IMSBC Code

Report 2: Analysis of Coal Composition Ecotoxicity and Human Health Hazards

Report 3: Coal Classification Requirements