The Great Barrier Reef and its amazing inhabitants will be better protected for Queenslanders and tourists to enjoy thanks to the launch of a new $5 million vessel, the ‘Reef Ranger’.
The 24-metre aluminium catamaran, jointly funded by the Queensland and Australian governments, was named and launched by Queensland National Parks Minister Steve Dickson and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt in Cairns today.
“The vessel will act as a floating ranger to monitor and protect the Reef in the most efficient and effective way possible, delivering on the Queensland Government’s promise to revitalise frontline services and boost tourism,” Queensland National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said.
“The new boat can operate away from port for 12 weeks, has a range of up to 2000 nautical miles, a speed of up to 25 knots and can carry 28 people, so it gives us the freedom to spend more time on activities that protect the reef and support tourism.”
Minister Greg Hunt said Reef Ranger was twice as fast as its 24-year-old predecessor, the Kerra Lyn, as well as being more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective.
“The new vessel is capable of reaching all corners of the 348,000 square kilometre Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, which improves our ability to respond to incidents quickly, and to service all parts of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“Time saved travelling means more time on-site at important and often remote breeding and nesting sites of some of the marine park’s threatened seabird and turtle species,” Hunt said.
“The boat will be used for a huge range of activities such as monitoring compliance with zoning rules, maintaining popular island visitor sites and moorings and fire and weed control on islands.”
Dickson said some of the tasks the boat would undertake included surveying for crown-of-thorns, which is one of the leading causes of the decline of coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef, and monitoring the turtle population on Raine Island.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is roughly the size of Italy or Japan, so rangers have a lot of territory to cover in their day-to-day work.
A typical day might involve monitoring compliance of zoning rules, maintaining facilities such as camping grounds and moorings, fire and weed control on islands, working with Traditional Owners on their sea country, or responding to boating or shipping incidents such as fuel spills.
The vessel will be based in Cairns but will spend more than 200 days of the year at sea, travelling the length and breadth of the World Heritage Area — a vital tool in the continued long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef and work to improve the resilience of this natural wonder.
Gold Coast firm, Marine Engineering Consultants, undertook the construction of the Reef Ranger, representing a significant investment in Queensland’s boat building industry and an important boost for local jobs.