Ports North have a long history of successfully delivering annual maintenance dredging campaigns at the Port of Cairns. The Port of Cairns was the first port in Australia to obtain a 10 year approval for maintenance dredging activities in 2010. This permission comprises a Marine Park Permit and a Sea Dumping Permit and approval for a new 10-year term was resolved in early 2022.

To support this process, Ports North prepared a Public Information Package (PIP) and an updated Long Term Maintenance Dredging Management Plan (LMDMP).

Consistent with our vision to be a "successful, sustainable port operator and a valued contributor to regional economic growth", long term, sustainable planning of maintenance dredging activities underpins everything we do. Our LMDMP builds on the historic investigations that have occurred at our port over many years. It documents the results of a considerable number of studies, captures valuable feedback from stakeholders, and presents a leading-practice framework for the long-term management of dredge sediment.

We have also worked closely with regulatory agencies to ensure that the LMDMP aligns with the Queensland Maintenance Dredging Strategy, the Federal Government’s Long Term Monitoring and Management Plan Information Requirements and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s permit requirements.

The implementation of the plan will continue to be guided by our Technical Advisory Consultative Committee (TACC), consisting of representatives from the Commonwealth, State and local government, port users, environmental/conservation and community interest groups.

Public comment was sought on the renewal of the Sea Dumping Permit and Marine Parks Permit during a consultation period between August and October 2021. Public submissions were considered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Department of Environment and Science (the Managing Agencies) and a decision was made on the permit application on 25 February 2022.

Details on the approval (Reference Number G22/44236.1) are accessible via Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website: gbrmpa.gov.au/about-us/consultation



Ports North manages five ports within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and these operations are conducted under significant environmental controls across a broad range of legislative processes to ensure port operations are managed to a high standard given their location in highly sensitive areas.

The Queensland Government's actions under the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan have included the development of the Queensland Maintenance Dredging Strategy, which requires each of the ports within the GBRWHA to develop a Long Term Maintenance Dredging Management Plan (LMDMP).

The Queensland Maintenance Dredging Strategy and Guidelines for LMDMPs include the following core principles:

  • Recognise the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Incorporate the best available science
  • Incorporate the principles of sustainable development
  • Improve accessibility to and transparency for information exchange
  • Aim to implement leading practice to ensure efficient operation of those ports.

Ports North’s long-term maintenance dredging management plans have been drafted in accordance with these core principles and to recognise existing Federal frameworks applicable to Marine Parks and Sea Dumping Permits. This will address and outline the management approach for continual improvement in environmental performance for maintenance dredging where it occurs.

These plans have also considered and incorporated the Ports Australia Code of Practice and take into consideration a range of research and monitoring outcomes available via our networks within the Queensland Ports Association.

The LMDMPs describe important environmental, social, and economic values of each port location and, where applicable, capture all aspects associated with dredging and the management of dredge material.

Plans for Mourilyan, Cairns, Cooktown, Cape Flattery, and Quintell Beach were developed in 2018 and the updated versions informed by outcomes of the consultation period are now found below.

It is important to note that each of these ports have different coastal processes that define sediment movement, and as such, maintenance dredging is not required at some locations. This status is unlikely to change.

These LMDMPs will be used as reference documents on the status of responsibilities, and dredging requirements or, where applicable, as a support document for future dredging and placement applications to relevant regulators.

Development and ongoing use of these plans is to be further informed by consultation with a broad range of key experts, government representatives, and stakeholders. Briefings on the development of the LMDMPs have been provided to existing consultative forums including:

  • Port of Cairns Technical Advisory Committee (TACC)
  • Cairns Port and Mourilyan Port Advisory Groups
  • Cairns Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC)

Consistent with the process for each of the other GBR ports, these will be active documents which will be reviewed and adapted as knowledge and understanding progresses, or as related approvals are updated or renewed. Stakeholder input will be essential to this as we continue to work together to ensure sound ongoing management of maintenance dredging at Queensland’s ports.

To assist in continual improvements to these documents, we are interested in any feedback on the LMDMPs which can be submitted by email to enquiries@portsnorth.com.au


Access can be made via the following links to the existing and approved management plans which facilitate implementation of the monitoring and management approval conditions for activity at Cairns (2022-2032) that fulfils the QLD Maintenance Dredging Strategy process for our GBR ports, and the plan for Karumba (2022-2032).


An Offset Management Plan for the Cairns Shipping Development Project (EPBC 2012/6538) was approved by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water on 11 March 2022.  

EPBC 2012-6538 CSDP Offsets Management Plan

Water Action Quality 17

Ports North has worked with Queensland Ports Association (QPA) on a study to address the Water Quality Action 17 in the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan.

To support this work, BMT WBM have prepared a quantitative sediment budget of the entire Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and regions surrounding GBR ports. This work was scoped in 2017 with input from research agencies and has been reviewed by Environment Managers from each port authority, QPA and technical specialists engaged by QPA.  In addition, it has also been the subject of independent peer review.

Ports Australia Dredging Code of Practice

Ports Australia Dredging Code

Maintaining Safe Port Operations at the Port of Cairns

Safe Port Operations Cairns



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