06/2022—Coastal pilotage

This Marine Notice reminds vessel masters, owners and operators about the coastal pilotage requirements that apply within the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, as prescribed in Marine Order 54 (Coastal pilotage) 2014 (MO54).


In accordance with the Navigation Act 2012, vessels over 70 metres in length, loaded oil tankers, loaded chemical carriers, and loaded liquefied gas carriers (irrespective of length) are required to embark a licensed coastal pilot when transiting any of the prescribed compulsory coastal pilotage areas.

Significant penalties may apply for navigating in any of the coastal pilotage areas without an AMSA-licensed coastal pilot onboard.

Naval vessels are excluded from the compulsory coastal pilotage requirements under the Navigation Act. 

It is important to note that the master of a vessel is not relieved of responsibility for the conduct and safe navigation of the vessel whilst the vessel is under pilotage — see section 326 of the Navigation Act.

Coastal pilotage areas

The following areas are prescribed compulsory pilotage areas under MO54:

  • Hydrographers Passage;
  • Inner Route;
  • Torres Strait;
  • Great North East Channel; and
  • Whitsundays.

Coastal pilotage area definitions and boundaries (WGS84)

Hydrographers Passage pilotage area means the area bounded by a line that progressively joins the following points:

Point:             Latitude:                     Longitude:

1.                     20º 39.11′S                 149º 49.36′E

2.                     20º 35.91′S                 150º 07.36′E

3.                     20º 28.31′S                 150º 18.06′E

4.                     20º 02.91′S                 150º 03.06′E

5.                     19º 54.91′S                 150º 16.56′E

6.                     19º 39.91′S                 150º 10.56′E

7.                     19º 50.91′S                 150º 33.06′E

8.                     20º 01.41′S                 150º 25.86′E

9.                     20º 06.91′S                 150º 17.26′E

10.                   20º 19.91′S                 150º 27.06′E

11.                   20º 32.91′S                 150º 27.06′E

12.                   20º 41.51′S                 150º 11.66′E

13.                   20º 54.41′S                 150º 01.96′E

14.                   20º 39.11′S                 149º 49.36′E

Inner Route pilotage area means the waters bounded by:

  1. the Australian mainland; and
  2. the outer eastern edge of the Great Barrier Reef Region*; and
  3. the northern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Region* (latitude 10º 41.00′S) ; and
  4. latitude 16º 39.91′S; and
  5. the Torres Strait, excluding the waters to the north of latitude 10º 28.00′S and east of longitude 142º 39.00′E.
* Great Barrier Reef Region has the meaning given by section 3 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

Torres Strait means the waters bounded:

  1. on the south by latitude 10º 41.00’S; and
  2. on the east:
    • for a ship moving eastward - by longitude 143º 22.00’E; or
    • for any other vessel - by longitude 143º 24.00’E; and
  3. on the north by the line of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); and
  4. on the west:
    • for a vessel of less than 8m draught - by longitude 142º 05.00’E; or
    • for a vessel of 8m draught or more moving eastward - by longitude 141º 50.00’E; or
    • for a vessel of 8m draught or more moving westward - by longitude 141º 51.70’E.

Great North East Channel pilotage area means the area bounded by a line that progressively joins the following points:

Point:              Latitude:         Longitude:

1.                     10º 41.0′S       141º 50.0′E

2.                     10º 28.0′S       141º 50.0′E

3.                     10º 28.0S′       142º 27.0′E

4.                     10º 18.0′S       142º 48.0′E

5.                     9º 48.0′S         143º 08.0′E

6.                     9º 30.0′S         143º 24.0′E

7.                     9º 45.0′S         143º 24.0′E

8.                     10º 20.0′S       143º 00.0′E

9.                     10º 41.0′S       141º 50.0′E

Whitsundays pilotage area means the area bounded by a line that begins at the northernmost point of Cape Gloucester at low water, at about latitude 20º 03.94′S, longitude 148º 27.51′E, and continues progressively:

  1. to the following points:

Point:              Latitude:         Longitude:

1.                     19º 58.02′S     148º 18.60′E

2.                     19º 57.83′S     148º 18.53′E

3.                     19º 58.00′S     148º 21.68′E

4.                     19º 58.28′S     148º 27.05′E

5.                     19º 58.37′S     148º 27.40′E

6.                     19º 59.28′S     148º 33.62′E

7.                     20º 00.82′S     148º 37.48′E

8.                     20º 02.17′S     148º 53.07′E

9.                     20º 03.58′S     148º 57.92′E

10.                   20º 14.42′S     149º 10.47′E

11.                   20º 15.20′S     149º 11.15′E

12.                   20º 28.93′S     149º 08.03′E

13.                   20º 31.20′S    149º 09.07′E

14.                   20º 34.28′S     149º 10.50′E

15.                   20º 33.91′S     149º 07.06′E

16.                   20º 39.73′S     148º 45.82′E

  1. west along parallel of latitude 20º 39.73′S to the coastline of the mainland at mean low water, near Midge Point; and
  2. generally northerly, easterly, south-easterly and north-westerly along the coastline of the mainland at mean low water to the point where the boundary began.


Masters or vessel owners may apply to AMSA for an exemption from the pilotage requirements of the Navigation Act — see section 172. An exemption application must also be made to the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to navigate without a licensed pilot in the Hydrographers Passage, Inner Route and Whitsundays pilotage areas.

Further information about coastal pilotage exemptions is available at AMSA’s website: Coastal pilotage exemptions (amsa.gov.au)

Further information

General information about coastal pilotage requirements can be found on the AMSA website: Under keel clearance management

Contact us

Any queries regarding coastal pilotage requirements should be directed to: coastal.pilotage@amsa.gov.au

Last updated: 21 April 2023