Marine conservationists fear the speedy approval of new coal depots on the Australian coast could damage the Great Barrier Reef.
The coral reefs pull in thousands of tourists in a A$6 billion (£3.3bn) industry and are home to many species of plants and animals, from sea turtles to migrating whales.
Felicity Wishart of the Australian Marine Conservation Society told the Australian Senate on Monday: “We are very alarmed at the massive port expansion agenda for the Great Barrier Reef.
“There’s plans for 100 million tonnes of dredging in the reef’s waters, which will cause long-term damage,” reported Australian news network ABC.
Outside the hearing, the CEO of Queensland Resources Council defended shipping channels as “essential”.
Michael Roche said: “We are a trading nation, we are a trading state, we have A$40 billion (£22bn) worth of exports flying out of our ports adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef,” reported ABC.