Sea Dumping Act

Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981

Waters surrounding Australia's coastlines are increasingly threatened by wastes and pollution that are dumped at sea.

Australia regulates the loading and dumping of waste at sea under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (the Sea Dumping Act). This Act also fulfils Australia's international obligations under the London Protocol  to prevent marine pollution by controlling dumping of wastes and other matter.

Under the Sea Dumping Act, the Commonwealth aims to minimise pollution threats by:

  • prohibiting ocean disposal of waste considered too harmful to be released in the marine environment and
  • regulating permitted waste disposal to ensure environmental impacts are minimised.

The Sea Dumping Act applies to all vessels, aircraft and platforms in Australian waters and to all Australian vessels and aircrafts in any part of the sea.

Permits are required for all sea dumping operations. Permits are most commonly issued for dredging operations and the creation of artificial reefs. Permits have also been issued for dumping of vessels, platforms or other man-made structures and for burials at sea.

The Act does not apply to operational discharges from ships, such as sewage and galley scraps. These are regulated under legislation administered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority .

Exceptions to the Sea Dumping Act requirements may be allowed in the case of emergency as defined in Article 8 of the London Protocol .

Related legislation

The Sea Dumping Act is related to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and the Sea Installations Act 1987.

The EPBC Act protects the environment and in particular, matters of national environmental significance. Some sea dumping projects may require approval under both the EPBC Act and the Sea Dumping Act. In these cases, applications can be assessed concurrently under both Acts.

If sea dumping activities are proposed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, they will be assessed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. All enquiries should be directed to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The Sea Installations Act regulates the placement, use and maintenance of seabed installations in Australian waters. A sea installation refers to any man made structure that is in contact with the seabed and used for an environment-related activity (e.g. tourism, recreation). Projects rarely require approval under both the Sea Installations and the Sea Dumping Acts.