AMSA Marine Notice 8/2006 – compulsory pilotage in the Torres Strait

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has issued Marine Notice 8/2006 regarding revised pilotage requirements in the Torres Strait to be introduced by the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments on 6 October 2006. 

Specified in Marine Orders Part 54, this is a new compulsory pilotage area for the Torres Strait, further details of which are reproduced in the Marine Notice 8/2006. Members are advised that significant penalties will apply to a master or owner who fails to comply with the compulsory pilotage requirements in the Navigation Act and Marine Orders Part 54. 

However, members' attention is drawn to our article in Weekly NEWS No. 50/2004 of 10 December 2004, which read: 

"Australia and Papua New Guinea have proposed the extension of the current associated protective measure of pilotage within the Great Barrier Reef to include the Torres Strait [the current system of pilotage of the Great Barrier Reef is included in resolution MEPC.45(30)].  

INTERTANKO has raised its concerns at previous IMO sessions regarding the compulsory pilotage proposals for the Torres Strait. We previously questioned the legality of compulsory pilotage in international waters under UNCLOS, and also raised questions regarding the periods of work and rest required to be undertaken by the pilots on these long pilotages. We are pleased to advise that it has been agreed at this session that the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) resolution will read: 

"RECOMMENDS" that governments recognise the need for effective protection of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait and inform ships flying their flags that they should act in accordance with Australia's system of pilotage for merchant ships 70m in length and over, or oil tankers, chemical tankers and gas carriers irrespective of size, when navigating the inner route of the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait and great north east channel; between Booby Island and Bramble Bay.  

It was agreed that the changes would be incorporated into a new MEPC 53 Resolution." 

The new IMO resolution is MEPC.133(53). 

Whilst INTERTANKO recognises the enhancements to navigational safety that can be gained by the use of pilots in this strait, we are concerned at the precedent that AMSA is setting by making pilotage compulsory in these international waters. INTERTANKO is currently reviewing the legality of this and will keep members advised. 

Contact: Howard Snaith or John Fawcett-Ellis