An aeriel view of Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef.
An aeriel view of Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef. Videos Downunder

Plans to introduce reef pilots for all ships sailing the GBR

STRICTER regulations requiring all ships to have reef pilots on board while navigating the Great Barrier Reef may not be far off.

The forecast for greater pilotage will come as welcome news to environmental groups, which have been pushing for compulsory pilotage across the entire reef in the face of a growing resources industry.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will in May release its North East Shipping Management plan, a blueprint to assess current measures and mitigate future environmental risks to Queensland's world heritage-listed asset.

Stricter requirements regarding marine pilots to navigate large ships through the reef will be open for public consultation in the draft plan.

Speaking from the Oil Spill conference, Spillcon, in Cairns on Thursday, AMSA deputy chief executive Mick Kinley said voluntary pilotage would probably come first to allow the industry to see what the future holds.

"We are putting everything on the table to look at," he said.

Mr Kinley said the AMSA had done modelling to investigate whether pilotage would decrease risks in Great Barrier Reef areas - and the answer was yes.

"Now the question is at what point do you introduce pilotage," he said.

Following the Shen Neng bulk carrier grounding on the reef off Gladstone, the reef tracking system was expanded to cover the south of the marine park.

There are currently only scattered areas along the reef requiring compulsory pilotage.

AMSA forecasts there will be about 10,000 shipping arrivals at ports within the Great Barrier Reef region by 2032.

Mr Kinley said reef shipping routes were low density compared to other ports across the globe and would stay that way.

"It's about the Australian people - they will not accept an incident on the Great Barrier Reef," he said.

Spillcon kicked off this week and saw over 500 delegates from 25 countries descend on Cairns to canvass oil spill preparation and response issues.

The United Nation's International Maritime Organisation secretary-general Koji Sekimizu said he was satisfied with Australia's attitude was a good model for the rest of the world.

"Australia proposed to establish a Particularly Sensitive Sea area in 1990 and the Great Barrier Reef was adopted by AMSA," he said.

"Australia is a leader in this area".