Australian Maritime Safety Authority

How to become a coastal pilot

Role of a coastal pilot

Coastal pilotage is part of an integrated approach to managing ship safety in Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef.


The requirements for Coastal Pilot Qualifications are in Marine Order 54, Coastal Pilotage (MO54).

To become a coastal pilot, AMSA must verify your existing qualifications and sea service via a formal assessment.

Sometimes, when it is not clear whether qualifications and/or sea service meet AMSA’s requirements, seafarers will need to seek a determination by the Manager, Ship Qualifications.

Classes of licences

There are four classes of coastal pilot licences:

A Restricted pilot licence means a pilot is authorised to pilot a ship in the identified pilotage area, but cannot pilot:

  • a loaded oil tanker
  • a loaded chemical tanker
  • a loaded gas carrier
  • in a pilotage area other than the Hydrographers passage, a ship that exceeds the draught endorsed on the restricted pilot licence.

The role of a coastal pilot

A coastal marine pilot advises on safe navigation in coastal pilotage areas.

Licensed coastal pilots must perform their duties with appropriate skill, care and attention to ensure the safe passage of the vessel being piloted.

In fulfilling these roles, coastal pilots are considered stewards of the marine environment.

This means that the coastal marine pilot must:

  • identify and manage risks to avoid a grounding or collision to protect the ship and marine environment
  • provide detailed passage planning, local knowledge, leadership to the bridge team, and liaison with shore authorities and VTS
  • provide independent judgement and advice to the ship’s master, who remains in command of the vessel
  • monitor their own personal health and safety, including managing fatigue
  • provide mentoring and training to new coastal pilots.

Requirements to obtain a trainee coastal pilot licence

The requirements to obtain a trainee coastal pilot licence are:

Requirement Clarification

A person is eligible to apply for a trainee pilot licence if:

(a) they are entitled to work in Australia

For information on working in Australia, visit the Australia Immigration and Citizenship website.

(b) they hold:

(i) a certificate of competency as Master for ships of 3 000 or more gross tonnage issued under Marine Order 70 (Seafarer certification) 2014


(ii) Royal Australian Navy qualifications in pilotage, navigation and seamanship that AMSA determines a satisfactory equivalent

AMSA considers successful completion of the RAN Long-N course as equivalent to an Australian Master (3000 gross tonnes or over) Certificate of Competency or Certificate of Recognition.

(c) the person is:

(i) competent in the English language
(ii) capable of understanding documents and directions relating to the performance of duties under the licence
(iii) capable of writing the documents and giving directions relating to the performance of duties under the licence

Competence in the english language will be verified during the CoC/CoR process.

(d) they hold a Certificate of Medical Fitness

The medical certificate must be issued under the requirements of Marine Orders, Part 9-Health, Medical Fitness.

(e) they have satisfactorily:

(i) completed an approved pilotage training course for trainee pilot induction.

The training course and the approved providers are detailed in the Coastal Pilotage Training section.

(f) they have completed, while holding a certificate mentioned in paragraph (b), at least 36 months of sea service as master, navigating officer in charge of a watch or pilot on ships 500 or more gross tonnage.

All testimonials for sea service must be on company letterhead clearly listing the dates that candidates were aboard each vessel.

Similarly, sea service aboard DP vessels will only be counted for periods in which the DP vessel is effectively making way (i.e. not performing dynamic position operations in which the vessel is maintaining constant position in relation to the seabed, or some other object, or any other similar circumstances).

Sea service aboard a FPSO will only be counted for stated voyages. Stated voyages are those that the vessel is not connected to the riser and is underway, for instance steaming for cyclone avoidance or proceeding to dry-dock. Time connected to the riser does not count towards sea service for a coastal pilot trainee licence.

Service as a pilot will count towards the 36 months and 18 months requirements respectively.

(g) for the sea service mentioned in paragraph (f) — 18 months of the service is completed in the 5 years immediately before the person is being considered for eligibility to hold the licence

How to apply for a licence

Applicants who meet the requirements specified in MO54 can apply for a Trainee Coastal Pilot Licence.

Applicants must complete AMSA Form 1021 and include all supporting documentation based on the type of licence requested.

An application fee will be applied based on the schedule of fees.

Applicants must also complete AMSA Form 144.

To facilitate immigration requirements seafarers should seek assistance from a pilotage provider to provide evidence that permanent employment has been offered.

Seafarers with a Master’s Certificate of Competency (CoC) not issued by AMSA will require a Certificate of Recognition (CoR).

In general, AMSA considers the successful completion of the Long Navigation Course as an equivalent RAN qualification.

Experience in pilotage, navigation and seamanship could be shown by RAN sea service documentation indicating the ship and rank held. Details about approved training providers can be found on our training page.

Licensed pilotage providers

Australian Reef Pilots
Phone: +61 7 3666 4000

Torres Pilots
Phone: +61 7 3217 9544

Hydro Marine Pilots
Phone: +61 7 4945 1600

Further information

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