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Department of Transport and Main Roads

The Port of Cairns

The Port of Cairns is a vital hub for Far North Queensland, facilitating tourism and trade. The port is the backbone of the regional economy and plays a critical role connecting remote communities.

About the Port

The Port of Cairns is a multi-purpose regional port that caters to a diverse range of operations from project, bulk and general cargo, cruise shipping, fishing fleet and reef passenger ferries, to naval and defence activities. The port is an important trade gateway that contributes significantly to regional economic growth and plays a vital role servicing regional communities north of Cairns as well as Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Read more about the Port of Cairns.

Review of Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 capital dredging provisions for the Port of Cairns

The Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 (Ports Act) provides a legislative framework for sustainable port development in Queensland and implementing the government's key port-related commitments and other actions of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan). Restrictions on capital dredging form part of these requirements and commitments.

For the Port of Cairns, the Ports Act includes specific provisions (section 35(2)(b) and (3)) that allows the carrying out of limited capital dredging for a port facility within the inner harbour of the Port of Cairns. Up to 50,000 cubic metres of material can be approved to a limit of no more than 150,000 cubic metres of material in a 4-year period. 

The Ports Act also includes provisions (section 38) that require a review of sections 35(2)(b) and (3) to be completed. The review required by section 38 of the Ports Act is currently underway.

No sea-based disposal of port-related capital dredged material is permitted in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) for the Port of Cairns or any other port.

The review

On 18 December 2020 the Minister for Transport and Main Roads released a report about the review and its outcomes. The report recommends that no changes be made to the existing provisions of the Ports Act at this time.  

Public consultation for the review was undertaken from 3 December 2019 to 7 February 2020. To support public consultation a fact sheet containing information relevant to the review was prepared to assist the community.

Submissions received during the public consultation period were considered during preparation of the review report.  The report on public consultation for the review outlines the matters raised in the submissions.

The Port of Cairns inner harbour

The capital dredging provisions and their review only apply to the inner harbour of the Port of Cairns. The inner harbour is shown on the map below.

See a full-size image of the inner harbour area:

Map of Cairns inner harbour

Document register

Further information


Last updated 2 June 2022