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Reef revolution: New tech to keep Great Barrier Reef and ports safer than ever

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The Palaszczuk Government has announced a $36 million investment in ship tracking technology to provide unprecedented protection of the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s ports.

Minister for Main Roads and Ports Mark Bailey said Queensland’s existing Vessel Traffic Service operations would undergo a major systems upgrade to help meet the modern demands of international shipping and environmental safeguards.

“The contract to design and install the new Vessel Traffic Services – Decision Support Tool (VTS-DST) has been awarded to Brisbane-based Australian Maritime Systems Group (AMSG), and SAAB Technologies Limited following a global competitive tendering process, ensuring the reef is protected by the best available technology,” Mr Bailey said.

At the core of the new VTS-DST will be the V3000 traffic management and information system built by SAAB and operated by 70 of the world’s major ports, including Rotterdam, Hong Kong and Shanghai as well as several Australian ports.

Mr Bailey said the new software would provide Queensland with state-of-the-art real-time tracking tools allowing operators to identify, monitor and interact with ships transiting through the Reef and ports around the state.

“Our vessel services operators will be able to provide detailed information to ship captains on sea conditions, ship traffic and potential hazards as well as be able to identify and intervene where developing situations dictate,” he said.

“The new system will replace the REEFVTS shipping control system, which has successfully protected the Great Barrier Reef since 2004, at the five port control VTS systems at Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone and Hay Point.”

Acting Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Mick de Brenni said the upgrade supported the government’s commitment under Reef 2050 that shipping within the Great Barrier Reef is safe, risks are minimised, and incidents are reduced to as close to zero as possible.

“For the first six months of this year around 9500 ship movements were undertaken in Queensland ports and another 5,400 reef voyages were undertaken all without serious incident,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Our investment will enable even more effective monitoring of ship traffic throughout the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Queensland Ports.

“This new system will make sure Queenslanders can continue to have confidence in our world-class vessel traffic service operation.

“Our Government is ensuring greater confidence for the shipping industry and environmental agencies in the safety of coastal navigation through this unique and wonderful marine ecosystem.”

The system will receive information from radar, CCTV, meteorological sensors and Automatic Identification System signals from ships via satellite or radio communications.

Maritime Safety Queensland General Manager Patrick Quirk said the system would give VTS operators the clearest and most up-to-date picture they had ever seen of ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef.

“It will also help predict and warn of potential problems – enabling authorities and captains to plan even safer journeys,” he said.

It is expected the system upgrade will be implemented in a staged approach over the next two years.

The ReefVTS component of the system is undertaken in a cooperative partnership with AMSA.

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