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Speech to the Australian Reef Pilots' Dinner to honour coastal pilots with 1,000 voyages through the Great Barrier Reef.

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KS05/2007 06 September 2007

The Australian Reef Pilots' Dinner to honour coastal pilots with 1,000 voyages through the Great Barrier Reef

Venue: Tattersall Club, 215 Queen Street, Brisbane, Queensland

Date and time: 7.00 pm, Thursday 6 September 2007

Title: Celebrating awards for 1,000 pilot voyages through the Reef


• It is a great pleasure to be guest of honour and celebrate with you the achievement of 1,000 pilot voyages by this distinguished group of coastal pilots. • Congratulations to Australian Reef Pilots in continuing this historic recognition of professionalism and dedication to duty.

Importance of Coastal Pilotage

• These awards recognise the vital role coastal pilots play safely navigating ships through the Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef. • Your professionalism and skill is evidenced by the fact that there have been no major incidents of groundings or collisions in the Great Barrier Reef or the Torres Strait

region in recent years. • It is quite an accomplishment when you consider that last year, more than 2500 ships made nearly 8500 thousand trips between the east coast of Australia and Asia,

Europe and the Middle East. • Those ships had the capacity to carry more than 500 million tonnes, which is about the equivalent of 2.5 million fully laden flights by Boeing 747-400 freighter jets. • Keeping the reef incident-free is crucial on both an economic and environmental


• The reef is not only a key trade route, it also plays a key role sustaining the state's economy by providing employment for thousands of Queenslanders, including tourist operators, and people operating recreational and fishing vessels. • And as you well know, the region is internationally recognised as a unique marine

environment with a dazzling array of fish and coral species. • People who think a politician's job is one of the toughest probably haven't spoken to a reef pilot. Question time, the media and Senate estimates have nothing on strong trade winds, occasional cyclones, and complex tidal streams. I commend you for your

skills, professionalism, stamina and courage.

Changing Pilotage Conditions

• As experienced pilots in the room would attest, there have been considerable changes to the challenges of pilotage. • More and bigger ships are requiring pilotage services, particularly with the recent change in pilotage requirements for the Torres Strait. • Globalisation of ships' crews brings with it new challenges, so too do major advances

in technology. • At the same time, pilotage services, like the rest of the maritime industry, have not been immune from the demand for greater efficiency while maintaining their high degree of professionalism. • The safety regulatory regime keeps evolving with a focus on safety management

systems that do not shackle services with overly prescriptive requirements. • And like many other sectors of the Australian workforce, your workforce is ageing. I'm pleased to note though that your industry is responding to the challenge with proposals for new training programs and changed qualification requirements aimed at

attracting new sources of recruits to the pilotage sector.

Torres Strait

• The Torres Strait is similar to the Reef in that it is a sensitive environmental area, while also being an important international shipping lane. It contains significant fishing grounds and is culturally significant and the source of livelihood to its island communities. • It presents similar challenges for pilotage as the Great Barrier Reef, with over 100

islands, numerous coral cays and exposed sandbanks and reefs, areas of shallow water and complex currents and tides. • From October last year, the Australian Government extended the pilotage regime operative in the Reef to the Torres Strait. • This remarkable achievement involved several years of diplomatic efforts in the

International Maritime Organization to gain international recognition. • The large proportion of ships that used to go through the Torres Strait unpiloted, in defiance of the IMO recommendation, now have a 100 per cent compliance with the new pilotage requirements. • The support of coastal pilots taking on the additional workload and the investment in

additional infrastructure required to implement the new pilotage arrangements was vital to the success of this important safety measure. • Representatives of Torres industries have spoken to me about clearing regulatory hurdles to the introduction of dynamic under keel clearance systems for ships

transiting Torres Strait, promising better safety and environmental benefits. • I have written to the Chair of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to ensure that consideration of the regulatory issues associated with under keel clearance systems take place as expeditiously as possible. • Any regulatory approvals would, of course, have to ensure that any changes would

not result in increased risks of shipping incidents and damage to the pristine environment of the Torres Strait region.


• In conclusion, let me once again congratulate all those receiving awards tonight. • Pilotage is a challenging profession and the responsibilities you face on a daily basis cannot be underestimated. • You are under constant scrutiny by the public, regulators and clients. • You deserve appropriate recognition for a difficult job well done. This awards

ceremony is well-deserved acknowledgement for long and dedicated service. • My thanks on behalf of the Australian Government for doing a great job in protecting our marine environment and a vital part of the Australian economy. • Thank you for the opportunity to be here tonight and I wish Australian Reef Pilots and

all those associated with its services continuing success into future.