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Safety zone doubles around reef

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Australia plans to more than double an area near the Great Barrier Reef that restricts shipping to protect the environmentally sensitive region, according to a story by Reuters news service.

A decision to include large areas of the adjacent Coral Sea in the area will expand it by 140 percent, or 565,000 square km (218,000 square miles), Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said in a statement.

The expansion comes as UNESCO is considering putting it on its list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger”.

The IMO accepted recently proposals that Australia put forward last year. The changes should gradually come into force once associated measures are adopted by an IMO committee expected to be held next month, Reuters reported. The changes would ultimately involve a new “area to be avoided” and two-way shipping lanes to keep ships away from reefs, sandbars and shoals.

UNESCO is due to decide on the reef’s status this month.

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