Demand for local reef pilot boats after shipping scare
LOCAL reef pilots are in greater demand from shipping companies since the ID Integrity saga in the Coral Sea last month as the industry tries to reduce the risk of a maritime disaster.
Reef pilots want shipping companies to follow the lead of a Chinese industry giant, which is hiring local navigators to safely guide their vessels through Far Northern waters, even when a pilot isn't compulsory.
Australian Reef Pilots have signed a landmark deal with Chinese company, Swire, to put a pilot on board huge container ships travelling through waters between Darwin and Cairns.
It's the first time the country's oldest and largest pilot provider has signed such a deal with a commercial shipping firm.
"We're seeing a pattern developing and it seems to have accelerated since the ID Integrity," ARP chief executive Simon Meyjes said, referring to the recent incident when a cargo ship almost ran aground on Shark Reef, in the Coral Sea.
Swire and its deep sea shipping division, China Navigation Company, were responsible for a 270 tonne oil spill at Moreton Bay in 2009.
"No ship owner would want to repeat a previous error and that's been the approach of China Nav and Swire," Mr Meyjes said.
Ships are only required to have a pilot on board while travelling the inner route through the Great Barrier Reef. But Mr Meyjes said that area should be expanded.
"I believe there's a very strong argument to cover the entire Great Barrier Reef marine park," he said.
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Close call: Hong Kong-flagged carrier, ID Integrity, lost power to its engine last month and drifted perilously close to the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: AMSA.