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A key pillar of North Queensland Bulk Ports' (NQBP) environmental approach is its long-standing marine monitoring partnership with James Cook University (JCU), stretching back more than 25 years.

JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) has a world-leading team of researchers and specialists in marine water quality, coastal habitat, seagrass, coral ecology and natural resource management.

North Queensland Bulk Ports is the only authority to manage three ports on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) and takes a unique approach to applying best practice management of the environment - and getting the balance right.

Extensive ambient marine environmental monitoring of water quality, coral and seagrass by JCU is used to assist NQBP to ensure risks to the environment are managed and ships continue to trade in and out of its ports. Our partnership is also about the robust science data and information we obtain from the program to help us as a port authority.The east coast ports of Hay Point, Mackay, Abbot Point are in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and NQBP's other port is in Weipa, in Cape York Peninsula in western far northern Queensland.

NQBP regards the protection of the reef and local environment of paramount importance and it is central in its planning for everyday operations and other important activities such as maintenance dredging.

Our partnership with James Cook University's Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Research (TropWATER) has evolved over more than 25 years, and in 2019 it became an award winner. The partnership won the Outstanding Collaboration for National Benefit category at the 2019 BHERT awards.

This national award recognised the effort for the right balance between commercial activities and stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.


The JCU and NQBP partnership not only engages industry with world-leading researchers, but it also assists future generations in marine science.

Since 2017, JCU students have worked directly with NQBP staff learning valuable insights about the port industry and important marine habitat management in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

NQBP staff also share their knowledge by presenting at guest lectures for our students. This is an amazing opportunity for students to get real-world exposure to industry and help launch their careers post-study. In September 2020, the partnership was renewed under a $5m program of works and an expanded scope to include undergraduate scholarships and further scholarships for PhD, Masters students and JCU interns.


Extensive ambient marine environmental monitoring of water quality, coral and seagrass by JCU is used to assist is used to assist in the management and operation of NQBP’s ports with robust scientific data.

JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) has a world-leading team of researchers and specialists in marine water quality, coastal habitat, seagrass, coral ecology and resource management.

The scale of NQBP’s and JCU’s seagrass monitoring program covers 30,000 hectares across its four trading ports.

For marine water quality monitoring, the partnership has had monitoring sites next to the ports of Mackay and Hay Point since 2014 and expanded to the ports of Abbot Point and Weipa in 2017. Measurements are taken by high frequency water quality loggers every ten minutes, which record water depth, root mean square water depth, temperature, turbidity and photosynthetically active radiation. With 17 permanent loggers across for ports, there are almost 900,000 individual marine water quality records collected every year.

Coral monitoring sites are in position at Mackay, Hay Point and Abbot Point, another important facet to monitoring reef health. This program spans across six inshore islands and researchers dive and record coral health for over 6km of transects (paths) each year.

In September 2020, a new era was announced for partnership under a $5m, five year agreement. This will see the introduction of remote camera systems to replace divers; trialing of next generation photomosaicing using Artificial Intelligence; use Under Water Automated (UAVs) and Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and improved sensors and data loggers.


Meet the team

Simona Trimarchi
Senior Manager Sustainability and Environment,
North Queensland Bulk Ports

Dr Nathan Waltham
TropWATER Co-Director and Deputy Director of JCU’s Marine Data Technology Hub

Dr Michael Rasheed
Associate Professor and Co-Director
JCU’s TropWATER

Kevin Kane
NQBP Director Environment.
North Queensland Bulk Ports

Nicola Stokes
Senior Environmental Advisor,
North Queensland Bulk Ports

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