Joint media release: Great Barrier Reef fleet expands in Townsville

27 May 2021

The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon. Meaghan Scanlon MP, Queensland Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef
The Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef
Les Walker MP, Member for Mundingburra 


The Australian and Queensland Governments are expanding their flotilla of Great Barrier Reef protection vessels under the Joint Field Management program with a new 19-metre barge to be based in Townsville. 

Designed to carry a small excavator, earthmoving machinery or 4WDs, and a 4.6m rigid hulled inflatable, the vessel to be built in Brisbane will cost $5 million and play a major role in protecting the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the new barge will be a practical investment, ensuring key conservation and rehabilitation activities can be prioritised, and allowing a team of rangers to undertake extended patrols to protect and manage national park islands.

“Enhancing the resilience of our amazing islands and reefs through activities such as controlling invasive pests, re-planting native vegetation to support species like seabirds and turtles and trialling the application of reef rehabilitation techniques is a task our rangers are uniquely placed to do,” Minister Ley said. 

“This vessel will provide the ideal platform from which to conduct these projects and comes on the heels of the recent launch of the $9.7 million Reef Resilience in Gladstone.” 

Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the vessel would strengthen the capacity of Reef Joint Field Management Program in some of the most remote locations of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

“The Reef contributes $6.4 billion to the economy every year and supports around 64,000 jobs – making it a huge reason why the Queensland Government investing close to $1 billion this year to protect the environment, create jobs and drive our economic recovery,” Minister Scanlon said.

“Reef protection isn’t possible without rangers and specialists monitoring the Reef, and this new vessel will make it easier for them to do their jobs efficiently, quickly and safely.

“This floating ranger station will play an important role alongside other initiatives aimed at protecting the Reef like our $270 million water quality program.” 

 Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, said that the role of vessels in protecting the Reef was critical.

“The Reef is incredible, and we have some of the best reef managers in the world who are doing amazing work in keeping it that way,” the Special Envoy said.

“We are giving them the tools they need to help the Reef, its islands and unique wildlife.”

State Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said the new barge would allow rangers to perform patrol and infrastructure management duties and provide:

•    Protected marine area management
•    Island national park management
•    Compliance operations
•    Incident response
•    Diving and research operations
 
“The long-range barge will have a cruising speed of 20 knots and a range of more than 500 nautical miles,” Mr Walker said. 

“It will replace an older vessel which has now reached the end of its serviceable life after it completed the equivalent of two circumnavigations around the world.

“This new edition to the Reef Fleet is expected to operate up to 270 days per year and includes overnight accommodation for seven rangers, and up to 24 for day trips.”