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Some commercial activities and operations require a permit to occur in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef (Coast) Marine Park, including tourism programs and charter operations.

There is more detailed information available about the permission system, application and assessment fees, and how we assess applications.

Tourism program

A tourist program is a commercial activity that provides transport, accommodation or services to people who are visiting the Marine Parks mainly for recreation and enjoyment.

Tourists may be local residents, from within Australia or international visitors.

Vessel or aircraft charter operation

A vessel or aircraft charter operation involves business activity that allows a company to charge a fee for the charter of their vessel or aircraft to non-tourists.

The activities under this permission include provision of transport, accommodation, and services to non-tourists who are using the vessel or aircraft for management activities, work, research or other non-tourism related purposes such as commercial filming.

Tourism and charter permissions may be granted for a period of up to eight years for most applications or 20 years for high standard tourism operations.

Assessment approaches

  • Routine and tourism and charter permit
  • Key features include longer permit terms, a wide range of access to most areas of the Marine Parks, a range of activities (including whale watching) and no restriction on the number of vessels or aircraft that may be used. Refer to A Guide to a Permit Holder.


Permitted zones and locations 

  • General access
  • Visiting and anchoring is allowed in most locations in most zones of the Marine Parks for up to two (2) visits in any seven (7) consecutive day period at each location outside a Planning Area. Additional rules may be specified in permit conditions.
  • Plans of Management and Special Management Areas have additional location-specific rules

Vessel or aircraft notification

For most tourism permits the vessel or aircraft that you are permitted to operate is recorded in a separate document called a Vessel Notification Approval (VNA) or Aircraft Notification Approval (ANA). This system allows you to nominate or change your permitted vessel or aircraft at any time.

You can manage your VNAs through the online application portal and no fee will apply. If you are unable to use the online portal the standard fee will be charged.


  • Vessel and aircraft Identification Numbers
  • Vessel and aircraft Identification Numbers (VIN or AIN) were introduced to provide greater flexibility for you to choose the vessel or aircraft you require on the day. They are like car number plates and allow you to operate a range of similar vessels depending on your operating requirements. The numbers also assist in monitoring compliance, helping to identify your vessel and/or aircraft and the Marine Parks permit you are operating under. Bareboat Identification Numbers (BIN) apply only to bareboat operations in the Whitsundays Plan of Management Area.


  • To the extent that your permit does not require something different, the agency expects a VIN, BIN or AIN to be used in the following manner:
  • When you are using a VIN, BIN or AIN, it must be clearly visible on the port side of the permitted vessel or aircraft.
  • If you have multiple VINs, BINs or AINs for multiple crafts, only one VIN or AIN can be displayed on a craft at any given time.
  • A VIN, BIN or AIN can only be used on one craft per calendar day.

You can use any craft you choose providing that the craft complies with all of your permit conditions regarding size of craft and passenger capacity.

If your identifier is damaged return it to the Authority for a new one. If your identifier is lost, please provide the Authority a statutory declaration that the identifier has been lost.

Remember someone else could try to use the identifier which is linked to your permit, so it is in your interest to notify the Authority as soon as possible at

Fees apply for each new identifier.

Environmental incidents

Environmental incidents, such as cyclones and oil spills, can severely degrade the quality of a tourism site. Presentation of a damaged site can also impact the reputation of the Great Barrier Reef and the marine tourism industry.

We have adopted the Marine Tourism Contingency Plan to provide business-focused arrangements for tourism operations impacted by a severe environmental incident.

  • The plan clarifies the response options available, including:
  • immediate responses — supporting actions that individual operators can commence immediately within their current permit conditions and management arrangements or can easily be implemented through modification to an existing permission.
  • recovery responses — focusing on short to medium-term actions which individual operators can take by applying for additional permits under the plan.
  • adaptation responses — supporting long-term actions where the nature of the incident does not allow for short or medium-term recovery or where the number of operators impacted does not allow case-by-case assessment.

The plan also clarifies the options available to permission holders of tourism programs in the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday planning areas.

Supporting information for the marine tourism contingency plan can be found in this information sheet
For operations impacted by a severe environmental incident, complete the application through the online application portal or alternatively complete the Marine Tourism Contingency Plan application form and email the completed form to

Updated 23 Mar 2023
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