Passage Planning Guide: Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait (PPG - GBRTS) - 2021 Edition

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Number of Pages:
Published Date:
March 2021
Book Height:
305 mm
Book Width:
285 mm
2.1 kg
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This publication has been revised to incorporate the latest guidance and practical advice for ships transiting the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. It offers additional clarity on subjects such as maximum draught and UKC requirements and Australian MARPOL areas. This is a reliable resource for any crew navigating the region.

This publication is designed to be used as part of the ship's pre-entry procedures and as a tool for refreshing the bridge team each time the ship is planning a passage through the GBRTS. An improved presentation of pull-out chartlets allow the book to be used in real time, giving the navigator an overview that can be lost on ships where the primary means of navigation is ECDIS. Updated traffic information and case studies based on accident reports are effective in illustrating best navigational procedures.


The Great Barrier Reef is an area of global environmental and economic importance. As early as 1975, the Australian Government recognised its significance by creating the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to regulate all activities that take place within the marine park. Its scientific, cultural and historic importance led to the Park being added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981, with the adjoining and connected Gondwana Tropical Rainforests added in 1986. The Park, and the adjoining area encompassing the Torres Strait up to the border with Papua New Guinea, was designated a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in 1990, which led to the introduction of compulsory pilotage the following year.

Consequently, passing through these areas can be a cause of concern for the mariner, particularly if the bridge team is unfamiliar with the region. Although the whole of the Torres Strait and Great Barrier Reef lies within the state of Queensland, regulation of activities within this area is covered by both state and federal legislation. The source information is not always easy to locate and interpret, particularly if the ship has not been able to obtain all the necessary documentation prior to departing the last port. This Guide contains the information the bridge team will need to properly prepare for the ship's transit through the area.

All the data contained within this Guide has been collated and validated by Australian Reef Pilots, drawing on their considerable experience in all areas of the Marine Park.

Australian Reef Pilots strongly recommend that this Guide is used, not only as part of the ship's pre-entry procedures, but also as a tool for familiarising and refreshing the bridge team each time the ship is planning a passage through the area. Its design, with pull-out chartlets, allows this Guide to be used in 'real time', giving the navigator the overview that can be lost with the introduction of ECDIS paperless ships.

Captain Welwyn Gamble,
General Manager, Australian Reef Pilots Pty Ltd

PART 1 Background and Supporting Notes to the Guide

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Marine Management in the Region

1.3 Maximum Draught and the UKCM System in the Torres Strait

1.4 Navigation in the GBRTS

1.5 Passage Planning

1.6 Climate and Meteorology

1.7 MARPOL and Environmental Considerations

1.8 Emergency Response Vessel

PART 2 Groundings and Collisions in the GBRTS – Case Studies

2.1 Groundings and Collisions – Case Studies

2.2 Traffic Hotspots

PART 3 Passage Notes

Section 1 – Great North East Channel

Great North East Channel – NE-bound

Great North East Channel – SW-bound

Section 2 – Inner Route and South of Cairns

Inner Route – SE-bound

South of Cairns – Southbound

South of Cairns – Northbound

Inner Route – NW-bound

Section 3 – Hydrographers Passage

Hydrographers Passage – SW-bound

Hydrographers Passage – NE-bound

Section 4 – Whitsunday Passage

Whitsunday Passage

PART 4 Annexes

Annex 1 – Pre-Entry Bridge Team Meeting GBR and TS

Annex 2 – Getting the Best from ENC in the GBR

Annex 3 – GBRMPA Approved Cruise Transit Corridors

Annex 4 – Reef VTS

Annex 5 – Ballast Water Management for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park


Witherbys titles are developed using scripts developed by technical experts that are peer reviewed within work groups. Typically, they seek to improve understanding of the regulations, recommendations and guidelines issued by Industry.

Witherbys staff have significant expertise in the fields of navigation and hazardous cargoes as well as in the presentation of complex subjects in a graphic and easy to understand manner.

Maritime Industry Australia Limited

Maritime Industry Australia Ltd (MIAL) is an industry and employer association that reflects our members’ requirements domestically and internationally. We represent the collective interests of maritime businesses, primarily those operating maritime assets or facilities from Australia.

MIAL is uniquely positioned to provide dedicated maritime expertise and advice, and is driven to promote a sustainable, vibrant and competitive Australian maritime industry and to expand the Australian maritime cluster.

Auriga Pilots

Auriga Pilots (AP) (formerly Australian Reef Pilots) has been protecting Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef for more than 125 years. We are proud to be known as Guardians of the Reef.

AP’s professional services are unmatched and include Great Barrier Reef relief Masters, port pilots in Australia and New Zealand, towage specialists, marine surveys, provision of charts, voyage management, launch operation and hire.

The company owns and/or operates a modern fleet of six pilot launches and five land-on helicopters as well as pilothouses at Mackay, Cairns and Thursday and Yorke Islands in Torres Strait.

AP’s comprehensive and innovative environmental and safety management systems are accredited under ISO International and 9001:2015 standards.
The company’s dedication to safety is unparalleled and includes a world-class fatigue management system to reduce the risk of pilot error.

Number of Pages:
Published Date:
March 2021
Book Height:
305 mm
Book Width:
285 mm
2.1 kg

Maritime Industry Australia Limited, Auriga Pilots and Witherbys