Environmental planning advice

The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 is not limited to Commonwealth marine areas, as defined by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It applies to the coastal waters of the Australian States and Territories to the low water mark. The requirements of the Historic Shipwrecks Act must be taken into consideration when applying for any State, Territory or Commonwealth planning approval for actions or developments in these waters.

Proponents and their contractors must conform to all requirements of the Historic Shipwrecks Act and must:

  1. not damage, destroy or interfere with any historic shipwrecks or relics that may be encountered during the course of a proposed action without a permit;
  2. not enter or conduct activities within a shipwreck protected zone without first obtaining a permit under the Historic Shipwrecks Act;
  3. provide the Department's Maritime Heritage Section with written notification of the discovery of any suspected shipwreck or shipwreck relics identified during the course of the proposed action including:
    1. a detailed description of the remains of the shipwreck or of the relic. This could include sonar images, electronic data and digital photographs; and
    2. a description of the place where the shipwreck remains or relic is located that is sufficiently detailed to allow it to be identified and re-located including navigation data and datum information.

Any proposed actions involving contact with the seabed, or operations in close proximity to the seabed, that could potentially damage, destroy or interfere with historic shipwrecks or relics, should include risk mitigation strategies to ensure both located and previously un-located historic shipwrecks are not disturbed. Operational protocols should be put in place to ensure that identified risks are appropriately dealt with and to prevent possible breaches of the Historic Shipwrecks Act.

Depending on age, design and the types of materials used in construction, the remains of a historic shipwreck may be visible on the seafloor or could be fully or partly buried. Appropriate strategies could include desktop studies of the area to identify known or potential historic shipwreck locations, avoiding the areas surrounding known and suspected historic shipwrecks and identifying the physical remains of shipwrecks using detailed sonar, magnetometer or sub bottom profiling surveys of the areas to be impacted.