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How to become a coastal pilot

Become a coastal pilot and contribute to the safety of ships in the Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef.

The requirements for coastal pilot qualifications are in Marine Order 54 (Coastal pilotage) .

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

When it is not clear whether qualifications and/or sea service meet our minimum requirements, you will need to seek a determination by our Manager, Seafarer Certification and Pilotage.

Classes of licences

There are four classes of coastal pilot licence:

A restricted pilot licence means you are authorised to pilot a vessel 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

As a coastal marine pilot, you advise on safe navigation in identified coastal pilotage areas.

You must perform your duties with appropriate skill, care and attention to ensure the safe passage of the vessel being piloted.

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

This means that you must:

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

Requirements to obtain a trainee coastal pilot licence

To get a trainee coastal pilot licence, you must fulfill these requirements:

You can work in Australia

You are entitled to work in Australia. For information on working in Australia, see Department of Home Affairs.

You are qualified

You hold one of the following qualifications:

  1. A certificate of competency as Master for vessels of 3000 or more gross tonnage issued under Marine Order 70 (Seafarer certification) .
  2. Royal Australian Navy qualifications in pilotage, navigation and seamanship which we determine is a satisfactory equivalent.

We consider 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.

You have specific competencies

You are:

  • competent in the English language
  • capable of understanding documents and directions relating to the performance of duties under the licence
  • capable of writing the documents and giving directions relating to the performance of duties under the licence.

Your competence in the English language will be verified as you complete the Certificate of competency or Certificate of recognition process.

You have a Certificate of medical fitness

You hold a current Certificate of medical fitness. The medical certificate must be issued under the requirements of Marine Order 76 (Health—medical fitness) .

You have completed a training course

You have satisfactorily completed an approved pilotage training course for trainee pilot induction.

See coastal pilotage training for training courses and approved providers.

Provide evidence of sea service 

While holding a Certificate of competency or Certificate of recognition mentioned above, you have completed at least 36 months of sea service as master, navigating officer in charge of a watch or pilot on vessels 500 or more gross tonnage.

You must complete at least 18 months of this sea service in the five years immediately before you are being considered for eligibility to hold the licence. 

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

Similarly, sea service aboard dynamic positioning vessels will only be counted for periods in which the dynamic positioning vessel is effectively making way (ie 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 floating production, storage and offtake facilities (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 travelling 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.

How do I calculate my sea service?

How to apply for a licence

If you meet the requirements specified in Marine Order 54 (Coastal pilotage)  you can apply for a trainee coastal pilot licence.

To apply, you must complete an application for a coastal - trainee, restricted pilot, pilot and check pilot licence/renewal form 1021 and include all supporting documentation based on the type of licence requested.

You must:

If you need to meet immigration requirements, you can seek help from a pilotage provider to provide evidence that permanent employment has been offered.

If you hold a Master’s Certificate of Competency not issued by us, we will need a Certificate of recognition. In general, we consider 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

Auriga Pilots
Email: contact@auriga.com.au
Phone: +61 413 878 792

Torres Pilots
Email: operations@torrespilots.com.au
Phone: +61 7 3217 9544

Related information

Last updated: 15 December 2023