Yara Pilbara has replaced its fleet of ammonia transport ships with lower-emissions vessels in a bid to reduce the impact of industrial emissions on the Burrup Peninsula’s ancient Aboriginal rock art.

The chemical company, which operates liquid ammonia and technical ammonium nitrate facilities on the peninsula, launched two vessels that run on low sulphur fuel oil at Dampier Port last month after discussion within the Murujuga rock art stakeholder reference group on reducing shipping emissions.

Yara Pilbara general manager Chris Rijksen, who announced the fleet change at a business event in Karratha last month, said the company would strive to go even further in future by eventually moving from low to no-emission shipping.

“In the rock-art monitoring working group, they have identified that the ships that come to the port are contributing significantly with their sulphur oxide emissions and there is focus on reducing that,” he said.

“We have been able to make a proactive step to change the fleet of our ammonia ships and we’re making sure that we only bring in low sulphur ships to the Port of Dampier, to make sure that we don’t contribute to that sulphur oxide emission that could potentially harm the rock art.”

The Burrup is the site of more than one million pieces of rock art between 200 and 50,000 years old, which are in the process of being nominated for World Heritage listing.

Shipping has previously been identified as a key source of industrial emissions in that area.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Peter Jeffries said the group welcomed Yara’s decision to use ships with lower emissions in and around Murujuga National Park.

“This move is a step in the right direction towards protecting our rock art and securing World Heritage listing,” he said.

He also said the corporation would like to see further reductions in sulphur oxide, nitrous oxide and greenhouse gas emissions in shipping by using local LNG instead of heavy fuel oil from Singapore, a move that could also create local jobs.