Penalty issued for Shipwreck Protected Zone

Penalty issued for Shipwreck Protected Zone

Heritage Victoria has issued a Penalty Infringement Notice to a commercial fishing charter operator for entering, anchoring, and fishing in the Protected Zone of the City of Launceston shipwreck in Port Phillip Bay.

The City of Launceston is one of Victoria’s most significant shipwrecks. The original ferry between Melbourne and Tasmania, it is one of the most intact iron steamship wrecks of its age in Australian waters. About 9pm on 19 November 1865, the incoming SS Penola struck and ran down City of Launceston which began to sink almost immediately.

The discovery and reporting of the City of Launceston wreck and subsequent lobbying of the State Government led to the proclamation of the Victorian Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981.

Both Victorian and Commonwealth legislation provide for Protected Zones around significant or fragile historic shipwrecks.

Protected shipwrecks are marked on navigational charts and it is the responsibility of boat operators to know where the zones are located. There are six Protected Zones within Port Phillip.

Under the Heritage Act 2017, it is an offence to enter, moor, fish, dive, or use certain equipment within a Protected Zone.

Heritage Victoria Executive Director Steven Avery said the Heritage Act 2017 has strengthened compliance and enforcement tools to reduce the likelihood of impacts to shipwrecks in Protected Zones.

“Fines under the new Regulations are steep. The recent penalty was almost $2,000, and if prosecuted in court would be almost $25,000,” said Mr Avery.

“Of the 600 historic shipwrecks in Victoria, only nine are in Protected Zones and are off limits. People are free to access any of our other shipwrecks at any time, so long as they don’t damage or disturb the wrecks or remove artefacts.

“The J Class Submarines, Ex-HMAS Canberra, Loch Ard and Ozone are all popular wrecks to visit.”

Heritage Victoria has eyes on the water this summer and is working collaboratively with the Water Police, Coastguards and Surf Lifesaving Clubs to ensure people are behaving responsibly around historic shipwrecks.

For more information visit https://www.heritage.vic.gov.au/

Pictured: Artist’s impression of the City of Launceston sinking. Original image held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.