The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) has agreed new ship routeing measures to protect sensitive areas in the south-west Coral Sea, off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

With this development, vessels crossing through the region will be required to avoid the area and use two new, 5nm-wide two-way routes either side of it.

The two-way shipping routes will reduce the risk of ship collisions and groundings by separating opposing traffic streams, shoals and islets in the sensitive marine environment in Australia’s Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

"The two-way shipping routes will reduce the risk of ship collisions and groundings by separating opposing traffic streams, shoals and islets."

Australia’s Associated Protective Measures proposals were submitted as part of a plan to extend the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) eastwards, to include parts of the Coral Sea.

The proposal will be submitted for consideration to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in May.

In addition, the proposed ship routeing measures will be submitted to IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 95) in June, for adoption.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was the first PSSA to be designated by the IMO in 1990.

The extension of the Great Barrier Reef classification to include the Torres Strait was effected in 2005.

In February this year, the US paid $1.97m compensation to the Philippine Government for damage caused by a US Navy Avenger-class mine counter-measures ship to a protected reef.

The USS Guardian (MCM-5) minesweeper vessel ran aground on the UN-protected Tubbataha Reef in January 2013, causing damage to more than 2,345m² of coral.