Core to how we do business is getting the balance right; demonstrating that we take our environmental and social responsibilities as seriously as our commercial acumen.

North Queensland Bulk Ports seeks to, where possible, prevent, and always to reduce and manage its impact on the environment.

Like everyone, we care deeply about the condition and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. As the only port authority in the world to manage three Priority Ports located next to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, we’re proud to contribute to environmental health

We do this by taking a long-term strategic approach to environmental monitoring and research, and partnering with leading science institutions and experts. We pride ourselves on operating to the highest international standards through our Environmental Management Systems (EMS), which are certified under AS/ISO14001:2004.

Port activities

The main activities we, as the port authority, carry out are dredging to maintain navigable depths for ships and construction of port facilities. Appropriate environmental management plans, extensive monitoring and close consultation with stakeholders guide these activities.

NQBP leases land or infrastructure to other organisations to carry out port-related activities and has a planning, coordinating, facilitation and development function in the port. As a rule, NQBP only operates port facilities in the Port of Mackay. The individual operators of facilities in each port generally have control over potential impacts of their business activities, and any environmentally relevant activities they undertake are licensed by either the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection or the local council.

There’s been considerable private and public sector investment in port infrastructure to support Queensland’s importing and exporting needs. Development is integral to the success of our ports and to our region’s economic future. All new projects on port land are assessed for potential environmental impacts as part of an approval process.

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Strong relationships with the local community, business and government assist us to deliver sustainable outcomes. The Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Plan, released in 2015, provides an overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef until 2050.

Read more about our work in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Environmental policy

We are closely involved in the development and ongoing implementation of environmental policy that has the potential to interact with our business interests. As an organisation with strong environmental and sustainability credentials, we support planning and policy decisions that ensure avoidance and minimisation of environmental impacts are a priority.

We advocate that strong policy is:

  • Informed by rigorous and recognised science
  • Balances science with environmental, community and economic needs
  • Recognises maintenance and creation of ports and waterways are essential.

A member of our Sustainability and External Relations team serves as the Environment and Planning Chair for both Queensland Ports Association and Ports Australia, allowing NQBP to play a vital role in driving industry involvement and input into marine science, port policy and dredging assessment and governance.

Our expertise is also called upon by ports and industry associations throughout Queensland and Australia.

View a summary of the key environmental policy tasks undertaken during the 2016-17 financial year.

Environmental monitoring

We have a comprehensive program of environmental monitoring that is reviewed annually. It’s developed on a port-by-port basis to ensure environmental issues in each port are adequately monitored. Each port monitoring program is nested within broader regional and reef-wide programs to ensure a holistic approach to environmental management.

See our latest monitoring reports.

EcoPorts program

Our EcoPorts Program comprises a practical action plan to achieve long-term environmental and sustainability goals and commitments. It encompasses port environmental monitoring programs, training, auditing and tasks around community and stakeholder engagement on environmental matters. The program is fundamental in working towards a sustainable future for our ports, through identifying and scheduling our obligations and voluntary commitments to demonstrate a high level of environmental stewardship.

As part of the EcoPorts program, we provide environment grants of $1000 each to schools in all port communities, to fund environmental projects. This annual grants program aims to create awareness, understanding and appreciation for the environment. Successful 2016–17 projects focused largely on sustainability and included projects such as in-depth marine studies, sensory gardens and recycling initiatives.

Find out about EcoPorts sponsorship and grants

Sustainable sediment management project

Our ports are in the process of developing a long-term sediment management framework in consultation with Reef 2050 stakeholders, government and research agencies.

We’ve joined forces with the Port of Hay Point’s terminal operators – Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) and Hay Point Coal Terminal (HPCT) – to undertake a comprehensive technical, economic, social and environmental study of sediment management in and around the facility.

Left unmanaged, natural sedimentation has the potential to have substantial economic impact on the region which the Port of Hay Point supports. Natural sedimentation fills up navigational infrastructure such as channels, berth pockets, swing basins and aprons, impacting the depth necessary for safe loading, manoeuvring and transit of ships. At Hay Point, the time of greatest impact is when ships are loading in the berth pockets.

As part of the Sustainable Sediment Management project at Port of Hay Point, we’ve consulted a range of stakeholders to gather their views. These viewpoints will assist the decision-making process around sediment management. To further aid this process, we’ve been conducting a broad range of scientific studies to understand what options are available to avoid sedimentation; reuse any sediment which has accumulated and determine the impacts of a range of disposal options, including onshore and at sea disposal.  We’ll then use a structured decision-making process to combine the values of stakeholders with the scientific data to ensure we make the best decisions about how to sustainably manage sediment at Hay Point.

Environmental management key activities at each port

ActivityDescription Progress 2015-16
Coral monitoring This program investigates local fringing coral health, abundance and distribution and includes annual before and after wet season monitoring along the coastline of the Port of Mackay and the Port of Hay Point. Since early 2015, NQBP has had a team of scientists completing diver surveys on four island communities near the Ports of Hay Point and Mackay. The 2015-16 surveys supported natural seasonal fluctuations in algae abundance and showed an increase in hard coral cover at Keswick Island and a slight decline in cover at Round Top Island.
Marine water quality Large scale ambient marine water quality monitoring along the coastline of Port of Mackay. JCU’s TropWATER have been conducting ongoing monitoring covering 60km along the Mackay coastline from Slade Point to Freshwater Point, and offshore to Keswick Island. Plankton sampling has been added to the monitoring program to understand how blooms of algae and plankton contribute to changes in water clarity.
Seagrass monitoring and research program Undertaken by JCU scientists, this program aligns with broader Great Barrier Reef seagrass monitoring and provides linkages to the Queenslandwide network of habitat assessment and management. It covers the coastline of the Port of Mackay and the Port of Hay Point. Outcomes of monitoring in 2015 identified a new offshore Halophila spinulosa meadow off the Mackay Marina.
Regional stormwater monitoring program This program is a regional alliance developed to look at stormwater runoff in the Mackay region. Together, NQBP, Mackay Regional Council and Reef Catchments hope to identify areas of improvement and implement management strategies to improve stormwater runoff.  

Discover more about Port of Mackay

ActivityDescription Progress 2015-16
Maintenance dredging Safe, sustainable and competitive seaport services for customers require a well-planned maintenance dredging program to ensure declared depths are preserved. NQBP holds a 10-year long-term Commonwealth Permit and ongoing State permits for routine maintenance dredging at the Port of Weipa. The 2015 maintenance dredging campaign was completed between 23 June and 16 July 2015, with full environmental compliance and no incidents recorded. The 2016 maintenance dredging campaign began on 24 June and was completed by 20 July 2016.
Strategic, long-term seagrass monitoring program One of the largest running seagrass monitoring programs in the world. JCU scientists undertake monitoring and reporting, including the assessment of seagrass community health indicators. Outcomes of monitoring in 2015 identified that seagrass was in good condition and that overall the marine environment was healthy.

Discover more about Port of Weipa

ActivityDescription Progress 2015-16
Environmental approvals for capital dredging Abbot Point is a designated Priority Port in Queensland. Capital dredging will be required to allow for future growth of coal export capacity from 50 to 120 mtpa. The Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of seabed and placing it on vacant industrial land at the port, next to the existing coal terminal.
Seagrass monitoring and research program In place since 2008, the program assesses the long-term condition and trend for this valuable fisheries habitat. Outcomes of monitoring in 2015 identified seagrasses in the area showed a two-year steady recovery and strong increases in biomass and area after declines in previous years due to cyclones, high rainfall, winds and flooding.
Marine water quality A new ambient marine water quality monitoring program has been implemented at the Port of Abbot Point. Six permanent logging stations have been established in the area. Initial findings are expected late 2016.
Coral monitoring A new ambient coral monitoring program has been implemented at the Port of Abbot Point with surveys scheduled before and after wet season each year. In May 2016, the Australian Institute of Marine Science commenced an ambient coral monitoring program with 12 permanent transect sites at Holbourne and Camp Islands. The purpose of the program is to look at the dynamics of these communities as exposed to natural environmental conditions.  

Discover more about Abbot Point

ActivityDescription Progress 2015-16
Air quality monitoring In place for nearly 20 years, along with terminal operators, this program is designed to improve dust management practices at the port. Effective dust management continued at the port throughout 2015-16. A Coal Dust Study was also completed during the financial period with expected release of results in late 2016.
Marine water quality Large scale ambient marine water quality monitoring along the coastline of the Port of Hay Point. James Cook University’s (JCU) TropWATER have been conducting ongoing monitoring covering 60km along the Mackay coastline from Slade Point to Freshwater Point, and offshore to Keswick Island. Plankton sampling has been added to the monitoring program to understand how blooms of algae and plankton contribute to changes in water clarity.
Coral monitoring This program investigates local fringing coral health, abundance and distribution and includes annual before and after wet season monitoring along the coastline of the Port of Mackay and the Port of Hay Point. Since early 2015, NQBP has had a team of scientists completing diver surveys on four island communities near the ports of Hay Point and Mackay. The 2015-16 survey supported natural seasonal fluctuations in algae abundance and showed an increase in hard coral cover at Keswick Island and a slight decline in cover at Round Top Island.
Seagrass monitoring and research program Undertaken by JCU scientists, this program aligns with broader Great Barrier Reef seagrass monitoring and provides linkages to the Queenslandwide network of habitat assessment and management. It covers the coastline of the Port of Mackay and the Port of Hay Point. Outcomes of monitoring in 2015 identified seagrass biomass was the highest it has been since 2012.  

Discover more about Hay Point