Mandatory Torres Strait pilotage in force
Companies operating merchant ships longer than 70 meters (230 feet), or any size tanker or liquefied natural gas carrier, through the Torres Strait and the Great North-East Channel between Australia and Papua New Guinea, as of today face fines of up to A$275,000 ($205,000) if they fail to comply with new mandatory pilotage rules.
Australia has operated a system of compulsory pilotage within the great Barrier Reef since 1991 and have extended that scope with an amendment to the Commonwealth Navigation Act of 1912.
The legality of the decision by the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to mandate pilotage in the Torres Strait has been called into question, because under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Torres Strait is a strait used for international navigation.
“Hats off to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority — they have done a wonderful job here,” said Craig Southerwood, managing director of Torres Strait Industries. “It wasn’t easy I believe but they have just kept at it and they managed to get it through the International Maritime Organization. There was a lot of countries against it but AMSA managed to get it through.”
AMSA has outlined the new pilotage requirements at: http://www.amsa.gov.au/Shipping_Safety/Marine_Notices/2006/Documents/0806.pdf.