Every year, hundreds of thousands of ships cross international waters in the name of global trade. But what impact does Australia’s vast shipping trade have beneath the surface? 

It is an industry worth $200 billion annually to Australia, and 90% of global trade is shipped. 

A team of interdisciplinary researchers, drawn from the diverse fields of marine biology, business, and law, set out to investigate the potential effect of heavy anchors and chains on the ocean floor, a problem that most are not even aware occurs. Anchors can weigh more than 30 tonnes and each chain is up to 250 metres in length, with individual links weighing up to 200 kilograms.

The project will initially focused on vital Australian ports. The aim is to develop universal frameworks for environmental stewardship that can be adapted to coastal environments globally.

Lead researcher Professor Andy Davis says the team has been liaising with federal and state governments, members of the shipping industry, and environmental agencies to examine how to mitigate the impacts of anchor scour. The potential to impact the way the shipping industry operates and co-exists with precious environmental resources could have positive ramifications around the world.

“There is a huge knowledge gap of the impact of deep-water vessels on environmental habitats.  Even the shipping industry’s code of practice fails to recognise anchor scour as an important environmental threat,” Professor Davis says. “As each port and region is different, the impact on the ocean floor may vary dramatically from port to port.”

See how we are impacting environmental stewardship globally.


Download the case study or visit Global Challenges.

    Achieved engagement across
    22 organisations, including State and Federal agencies
    Included key ports within Australia
    Project team of 7 researchers, including 1 Early Career Researcher, and 2 PhD students
    Marine Biology
    Port Kembla, Australia
    Newcastle, Australia
    Townsville, Australia
    Port Dampier, Australia