Australian Maritime Safety Authority

About coastal pilotage

Marine pilots

A marine pilot is a mariner with local knowledge and expertise in handling large ships in dangerous or congested waters.

Marine pilots

A marine pilot’s role is to work with the ship’s master and/or Officer of the Watch, to ensure safe passage.

Pilotage is mainly used in ports and sometimes for coastal voyages.

Pilots join a vessel for part of the voyage, usually arriving and departing the vessel by launch or helicopter.

At no time does the pilot’s authority exceed that of the Ship’s Master.

The Master is accountable for the navigation and management of the vessel, however it is a condition of a coastal pilot’s licence to give the Master information and advice to assist the Master and the vessel’s navigating officers to make safe passage through the pilotage area.

Pilotage has been compulsory within the GBR since 1991.

The Australian pilotage regime came into existence for the Torres Strait - Great North East Channel (GNEC) in 2006.

In accordance with the Navigation Act 2012, ships over 70m in length or loaded oil tankers, loaded chemical carriers and loaded liquefied gas carriers (irrespective of length) are required to embark a licensed coastal pilot when transiting coastal pilotage areas.

Pilotage areas

Diagram of the coastal pilotage areas

Coastal pilotage areas.

There are four coastal pilotage licence areas:

  1. The Inner Route (from Cape York to Cairns)
  2. The Great North East Channel
  3. Hydrographers Passage
  4. Whitsundays (Whitsunday Passage, Whitsunday Group and Lindeman Group)

Pilotage companies

AMSA regulates coastal pilotage, including pilotage providers and pilots.

Three private companies currently provide coastal pilotage services.

While coastal pilotage is an important protective measure, it is part of an integrated approach to managing ship safety in Torres Strait and the GBR and should be viewed in combination with a range of other measures.

Further information

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