People who run marinas, operate vessels for business or have boats for recreational use, have environmental obligations. Common marina and vessel activities such as cleaning, maintenance, refueling and dredging pose a risk of harm to the environment and human health.

Understanding environmental laws for marina and vessel operation

The new environmental laws that commenced operation on 1 July 2021 apply to marina and vessel operations in Victoria.

Under the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act), marina and vessel operators have obligations to minimise risk of harm from their activities. It’s your general environmental duty (GED) to:

What you must do to comply depends on the scale of your activities and how complex they are. It also depends on the type of risks you need to manage.

Under the GED, you must have reasonable knowledge about the risks your activities pose, and how to manage them. Building this knowledge means drawing on reliable, reputable sources, including:

  • business and industry
  • regulatory and government agencies
  • independent organisations.

You have a responsibility to make sure your waste goes to the right place. This means it must go somewhere that can legally accept it, for example to a licensed landfill or waste recovery service. Your obligations depend on how the waste is classified. You must comply with industrial waste duties and the Environment Protection Regulations 2021 for waste. 

To manage any non-industrial waste from marinas or vessels, contact your local council for municipal waste services.

The Environment Protection Regulations 2021 outline specific requirements to do with discharge or deposit of waste from vessels. For example, you must not discharge or deposit waste from a vessel into water, except in some specific circumstances. Under the Pollution of Waters by Oil and Noxious Substances Act 1986 ships are prohibited from discharging oil and garbage by ships into Victorian waters except in certain, limited circumstances.

 Other laws and guidance

EPA guidance includes Cleaner marinas: EPA guidelines for protecting Victoria’s marinas (publication 624).

Guidance for vessel cleaning

Effective maintenance practices prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic pests from biofouling. For example, regular hull maintenance, cleaning of biofouling and appropriate disposal of biofouling and other waste, including wastewater.

Many vessels have anti-fouling paint, sealants, primers or coatings. These stop aquatic growth, such as barnacles, from attaching to vessel surfaces.

Use anti-fouling products with care as they can be harmful to other aquatic life.

Safety and Environment Management Plans (SEMP) are also a way for port and marina operators to address biofouling. Artificial structures, such as piers and pontoons, are common homes for invasive species.

Cleaning your vessel on land will reduce the risk of releasing aquatic pests into the water. If you need to clean your vessel in the water, follow the Australian Government’s Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines.. You must also:

Read more about marina and vessel operators

Reviewed 7 February 2022