The Australian Commonwealth Government has approved an amendment to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 which came into force on 1 October 1991. This requires all vessels of 70 metres or more in overall length and all loaded oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers regardless of length, to carry a Pilot, licensed under Commonwealth, State or Territory law, when taking passage through the inner route on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) between Cape York (Latitude 10°41’S) and the vicinity of Cairns Roads (Latitude 16°40’S) or when transiting Hydrographers Passage (Latitude 19°43’S).
Torres Strait and Great North East Channel
The IMO has adopted the designation of Torres Strait an extension of the GBR and defines the ‘Particularly Sensitive Sea Area’ to include the Great North East Channel (GNEC). On 6 October 2006 the Australian Government introduced compulsory Pilotage for the Torres Strait to the eastern end of the GNEC at Dalrymple Island (Latitude 9°34’S).
Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels more than 70 metres and all loaded oil, gas or chemical tankers through the Torres Strait.
Marine Notice 08/2006 requires vessels with a draft of 8.0 metres or more are required to engage a pilot to/from the western end of Torres Strait at Booby Island Pilot Boarding Ground (Latitude 10°36’S).
The Booby Island PBG is at the western extremity of Torres Strait, 4 miles west of Booby Island. The pilot boarding at Booby Island provides assistance through the shallow Varzin or Gannet Passages.
Varzin Passage lies 3 miles north of Gannet Passage and has a minimum datum of 40cm more than Gannet Passage. Varzin Passage is the preferred passage for deep draft vessels.
Vessels ordering their pilot at Booby Island PBG are either unfamiliar with the Inner Route of the GBR and/or 8.0m or more in draft.
Goods Island PBG lies 17 miles eastward of Booby Island PBG. Vessels using Goods Island PBG must be less than 8.0m in draft. Vessels ordering their pilot at Goods Island PBG will receive pilot assistance in the Prince of Wales Channel but not Gannet or Varzin Passage.
Vessels enter Prince of Wales Channel 12 miles after clearing Gannet or Varzin Passages and proceed through to Twin Island at the eastern end of Torres Strait; a distance of 40 miles from the Booby Island PBG.
Hydrographers Passage is a deep channel passage 110 miles offshore. Pilots board via land on Helicopter due to the distance from shore. No launch MPTs are available at Blossom Bank.