Canberra, May 29: The protection of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is expected to be enhanced with a barge to be built at a cost of A$5 million ($3 million), the Queensland state government announced.
The 19-metre vessel, based in Townsville, is designed to carry a small excavator, earthmoving machinery or 4WDs, and a rigid hulled inflatable, Xinhua news agency quoted the state government as saying.
With a cruising speed of 20 knots, the floating ranger station is expected to operate up to 270 days a year and provide overnight accommodation for seven rangers, and up to 24 for day trips.
The barge will play an important role alongside other initiatives aimed at protecting the reef, by supporting rangers to undertake extended patrol and infrastructure management duties, including protecting marine area and island national park.
It is also expected to enable the rangers to better respond to incidents, and conduct compliance, diving and research operations.
Australia's Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the barge would help prioritize the key conservation and rehabilitation activities.
"Enhancing the resilience of our amazing islands and reefs through activities such as controlling invasive pests, re-planting native vegetation to support species like seabirds and turtles and trialling the application of reef rehabilitation techniques is a task our rangers are uniquely placed to do," Ley said.
This vessel will provide the ideal platform from which to conduct these projects, said the minister.
Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the vessel will strengthen the capacity of Reef Joint Field Management Program in remote locations of the reef, and help rangers and specialists do their jobs more efficiently and safely.
Scanlon also said the reef contributes A$6.4 billion to the economy every year and supports around 64,000 jobs.