FEATURE | Australia’s marine pilots

FEATURE | Australia’s marine pilots

Photo: AMPI

The Australasian Marine Pilots Institute is the professional body representing marine pilots throughout Australasia.

Baird Maritime had a quick chat to AMPI President Neil Farmer about the state of pilotage in the region.

How is business? Is the pilotage industry in your country strong or weak currently compared to history?

There are many different models for pilotage in Australian ports. Some are operated by port authorities, and there are others that operate in a competitive environment. The commercial success of pilotage is generally proportional to the volume of trade through our ports, which continues to grow steadily. AMPI considers a strong industry is one where there is a high level of pilot involvement and a low rate of pilotage incidents

Have there been any big changes to your country’s port over the last year that have affected the pilotage industry?

Yes. Competition in pilotage in some ports has raised concerns that some elements of safety may be at risk, as a competitive environment is conducive to cost cutting in areas of recruitment, training and pilot transfer.

Competition also means operating under strong commercial pressure, which inevitably leads to a pilot operating outside normal parameters i.e. weather limits or a reduction in the number of tugs used.

The primary role of pilotage is to protect life, port infrastructure, the vessel, its cargo, the environment and our economy. Safety must be a priority of every pilotage service and larger entities that invest in pilotage services must be reminded that shareholders dividends take second place. State and federal regulators have a growing responsibility to ensure the highest standards are maintained in a competitive environment.

What do pilot boat operators look for in particular when purchasing a new vessel?

There are a number of elements to consider and these may vary depending on where they operate.

In many Australian ports pilot transfer can take place in heavy sea conditions so seakeeping stability and comfort are important, along with speed, fuel efficiency, reliability, quietness, self-righting capabilities and appropriate equipment (retrieval platform, FLIR camera, AIS etc.).

Vessels must comply with NSCV code for area of operation.

Are there geographical/weather conditions specific to certain areas that affect the design of new pilot boats?

Boats used on the east coast of Australia are often operating in swells of up to 10 meters and self-righting capability is essential.

Is there a favoured building material? Why?

There are aluminium built boats, however, fibreglass seems to be the most popular material – it is usually quieter and corrosion resistant.

Are the operators making or preparing to make any changes to their operations due to market influences?

Some operators use helicopters but to ensure a reliable service a suitable back up pilot boat with trained crew is essential.

See all the other content from this month’s Pilotage Week right here, including reviews, features, opinions and news.

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