The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved the Australian Government’s proposed extension of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in order to preserve the South West Coral Sea.
IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in London’s agreement of the new arrangements will result in 565,000km² of the South-West Coral Sea being added to the existing Great Barrier Reef and Torres strait PSSA.
This new development will mark a 140% increase on the current 403,000km² area of Great Barrier Reef and Torres strait PSSA.
Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said: "Our new measures enhance protection for the Coral Sea, as well as the adjacent Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, by helping ships traverse the region safely and avoid potentially hazardous areas.
"This is a concrete example of the Australian Government taking the necessary steps to protect the Great Barrier Reef, implementing measures outlined in the North East Shipping Management Plan released in October 2014."
The new PSSA will be supported by three associated protective measures, including a new ‘area to be avoided’ and two supporting two-way routes.
These changes aim to improve ship safety by preventing traffic from the many reefs, cays, islets, sandbars and shoal patches within the area.
In March, the IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) agreed new ship routeing measures to protect sensitive areas in the south-west Coral Sea.
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.