Dec 16, 2008

Coastal pilotage review recommends tougher safety rules

Coastal pilotage review recommends tougher safety rules


The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

December 16 2008

A review of coastal pilotage services in the Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef has recommended measures that will better protect these environmentally sensitive waters, including tougher rules for pilots and improved navigational services.

When transiting through the northern Inner Route of the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait, all vessels 70 metres or longer as well as all loaded tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers – except defence force vessels – must have a licensed coastal pilot on board.

This requirement has operated for the northern Inner Route of the Great Barrier Reef since 1993 and for the Torres Strait since 2006.

Today I’ve released the report from the expert panel appointed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to conclude the review of this service.

The panel supports the continuation of the current open competitive arrangements for the delivery of coastal pilotage services, but recommends stronger regulation of providers and the adoption of measures that will build a better safety culture.

The Board of AMSA has endorsed the panel’s findings. They are now reviewing industry regulations and moving to put in place additional resources to monitor compliance.

The new measures include:

  • Increasing the requirement for pilotage providers to report and document safety standards they find aboard ships such as the adequacy of charts, passage plans and the number of watch-keeping crew;
  • Strengthened requirements for safety management systems;
  • Greater emphasis on the quality of fatigue management plans;
  • Expecting pilot operators to report regularly on the training of pilots and status of medical assessments;
  • AMSA will provide additional resources for more rigorous performance audits of pilotage providers.

Twelve months after their implementation, AMSA will assess the new measures to make sure they have addressed the concerns that prompted the review and to determine whether further regulatory action is required.

The panel also recommends that a single under keel clearance management system – the technology that helps ships navigate through the Torres Strait’s hazardous and environmentally sensitive waters – be selected via an open tender process.

At present, only ships with a maximum draft of 12.2 metres are allowed to traverse the Torres Strait. By adopting an under keel clearance system, ships with a larger draft (i.e. a heavier ship) will be able to move safely through this stretch of water.

I join with the AMSA Board in thanking the panel members for their report as well as the individuals and organisations that took the time to participate in the review.

The recommended reforms are designed to substantially address the issues raised by interested parties during the review, and I look forward to receiving a progress report twelve months after their implementation.

The report and AMSA’s response are available at: