Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008
About the publication
Australia regulates the deliberate loading and dumping of waste at sea under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981.
The waters surrounding Australia's coastline are increasingly threatened by pollution. The dumping of wastes at sea is a source of marine pollution. There are Commonwealth laws that control dumping at sea and work to reduce and manage the associated impacts on the marine environment.
The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (the Sea Dumping Act) was enacted to fulfil Australia's international responsibilities under the London Convention of 1972 and has been amended to implement the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention (which Australia ratified in 2001).
Under the Protocol, Australia is obliged to prohibit ocean disposal of waste materials considered too harmful to the marine environment and regulate the permitted dumping of wastes at sea to ensure the environmental impact is minimised, (for example with dredge spoil or the disposal of vessels or platforms).
The Sea Dumping Act is administered by the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) if dumping is to take place within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Sea Dumping Act applies in respect of all Australian waters (other than waters within the limits of a State or the Northern Territory), from the low water mark out to the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Sea Dumping Act regulates the deliberate loading and dumping of wastes and other matter at sea. It applies to all vessels, aircraft or platforms in Australian waters and to all Australian vessels or aircraft in any part of the sea.
The Act does not cover operational discharges from ships, such as sewage and galley scraps. Those are regulated by the Protection of the Sea legislation administered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Some materials, such as those produced for biological and chemical warfare and radioactive material, cannot be dumped in Australian waters under any circumstances.
Permits from the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts are required for all sea dumping operations. Currently, about thirty permits are issued in Australia per year, mainly for the dumping of uncontaminated dredge spoil, disposal of illegal vessels and for burials at sea.
Applications for a sea dumping permit can be obtained from Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts or the GBRMPA.
In deciding whether to grant a permit, consideration is given to the type of material proposed to be dumped, the dump site and the potential impacts on the marine environment.
Further details of the permitting process for dredge spoil can be found in the National Ocean Disposal Guidelines 2002, which are available on the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts's web site: www.environment.gov.au.
Australia's performance compares well with international practice in sea dumping. Material dumped under Australian legislation is relatively benign to the marine environment. Controls are in place to ensure that the environmental impacts from dumping are kept to a minimum. It is widely recognised that land-based marine pollution exceeds pollution from dumping and other maritime activities.
For more information
Ports and Marine Section
Approvals and Wildlife Division
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Environmental Impact Management
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
PO Box 1379
Townsville QLD 4810
Phone: (07) 4750 0700
Facsimile: (07) 4772 6093