Pilot Boarding Grounds & Transfer Methods

Pilot Boarding Grounds (PBG)


Torres Strait


Booby Island PBG (1) Lat 10°36’S Long 141°50’E
Goods Island PBG(1) Lat 10°34’S Long 142°04’E


Great North East Channel


Dalrymple Island PBG(1) Lat 9°34’S Long 143°24.5’E




Cairns Fairway Buoy (1,3) Lat 16°47’S Long 145°53’E

Hydrographers Passage


Blossom Bank PBG (2) Lat 19°43’S Long 150°26’E
Note: 1. Board by Launch
2. Board by Land-on Helicopter only
3. Board by Land-on Helicopter by arrangement


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.  Compulsory pilotage legislation requires vessels 8.0m or more in draft to engage a pilot in Torres Strait to/from Booby Island.

Varzin Passage lies 3 miles north of Gannet Passage and has a minimum datum of 40cm deeper than Gannet Passage. Varzin Passage is the preferred passage for deep draft vessels.

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.

Eastbound 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 from Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminals. Marine pilot transfers (MPTs) are conducted via land-on helicopter at Blossom Bank pilot boarding ground. Vessels are required to comply with AMSA Marine Orders Part 57(Helicopter Operations). Please refer to Torres Pilots operations if more information is required. No launch MPTs are available at Blossom Bank pilot boarding ground.

Pilotage Transfer Methods


Inner Route & Great North East Channel (Outer Route)

Pilot transfers in the Inner Route and Great North East Channel (GNEC) are conducted exclusively by launch. Torres Pilots owns and operates pilot launches stationed in the Torres Strait, the GNEC and Cairns. Our modern launches are the safest and most reliable for pilot transfer operations in the Great Barrier Reef.

Pilots board at the western end of Torres Strait at either Booby Island or Goods Island. Torres Pilots has a pilot base on Thursday Island in Torres Strait. Pilots are available from the Pilot Boarding Ground (PBG) near Dalrymple Island at the north-east boundary of the Great North East Channel (GNEC) compulsory pilotage area. Dalrymple Island PBG is serviced from our GNEC pilot base on Poruma (Coconut) Island. The positions of all Pilot Boarding Grounds (PBGs) are detailed on page 4 and on our website.

Hydrographers Passage

Marine Pilot Transfers are conducted by ‘land-on’ helicopters at the Blossom Bank PBG for Hydrographers Passage. Our service is unique in its capability of providing three twin engine helicopters which are required to guarantee a 24 hour 365 days per year safe and reliable operation.

Helicopters are fitted with skids, pop out floats, weather radar and IFR operations are conducted with two aviation pilots. Power Plant offers Full Category A / One Engine Inoperative Performance.

 Cairns Helicopters

Marine Pilot transfers by land on helicopter can also be arranged at Cairns Fairway. Helicopters are restricted to land-on operations under visual meteorological conditions.
Winch-down helicopter marine pilot transfers are not undertaken in Australia.