Pilot transfers in the Inner Route and Great North East Channel are conducted exclusively by launch and via ‘land-on’ helicopter at Blossom Bank for Hydrographers Passage.

Pilot Boarding Grounds (PBG) 

Torres Strait

Booby Island PBG (1)Lat10°36’SLong141°50’E
Goods Island PBG(1)Lat10°34’SLong142°04’E

Great North East Channel

Dalrymple Island PBG(1)Lat9°34’SLong143°24.5’E


Cairns Fairway Buoy (1,3)Lat16°47’SLong145°53’E

Hydrographers Passage

Blossom Bank PBG (2)Lat19°43’SLong150°26’E
Note: 1. Board by Launch
  2. Board by Land-on Helicopter only
  3. Board by Land-on Helicopter by arrangement


The Booby Island PBG is located at the western extremity of Torres Strait, 4.7 nautical miles west of Booby Island. The coastal pilot that boards at Booby Island provides navigational assistance through the shallow Varzin or Gannet Passages. Compulsory pilotage legislation requires vessels with a draft of 8.0m or more to engage a pilot in Torres Strait to/from Booby Island.

Varzin Passage lies approximately 3 nautical miles north of Gannet Passage and has a minimum datum of approximately 40cm deeper than Gannet Passage. Varzin Passage is the preferred passage for deep-draft vessels.

The Goods Island PBG lies 17 nautical miles eastward of the Booby Island PBG. Vessels using the Goods Island PBG must be less than 8.0m in draft. Vessels ordering their pilot for the Goods Island PBG will receive pilot navigational assistance in the Prince of Wales Channel, but not Gannet or Varzin Passage.

Eastbound vessels (heading into GNEC) enter Prince of Wales Channel approximately 16 nautical miles after clearing Gannet or Varzin Passages and proceed through to Twin Island at the eastern end of Torres Strait (approximately 40 nautical miles west of the Booby Island PBG).

Hydrographers Passage is a deep channel passage approximately 110 miles offshore from the Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminals. MPTs are conducted via land-on helicopter at Blossom Bank pilot boarding ground. Vessels are required to comply with AMSA Marine Orders Part 57 (Helicopter Operations). Please refer to Torres Pilots’ Operations team if more information is required. No launch MPTs are available at the Blossom Bank pilot boarding ground.


Pilotage Transfer Methods

Inner Route & Great North East Channel (Outer Route)
Pilot transfers in the Inner Route and Great North East Channel (GNEC) are conducted exclusively by launch. Torres Pilots owns and operates pilot launches stationed in the Torres Strait, the GNEC and Cairns. Our modern launches are the safest and most reliable for pilot transfer operations in the Great Barrier Reef.

Pilots board at the western end of Torres Strait at either Booby Island or Goods Island. Torres Pilots has a pilot base on Thursday Island in Torres Strait. Pilots are available from the Pilot Boarding Ground (PBG) near Dalrymple Island at the north-east boundary of the Great North East Channel (GNEC) compulsory pilotage area. Dalrymple Island PBG is serviced from our GNEC pilot base on Poruma (Coconut) Island. 

Hydrographers Passage
Marine Pilot Transfers are conducted by ‘land-on’ helicopters at the Blossom Bank PBG for Hydrographers Passage. Our service is unique in its capability of providing three twin engine helicopters which are required to guarantee a 24 hour 365 days per year safe and reliable operation.

Helicopters are fitted with skids, pop out floats, weather radar and IFR operations are conducted with two aviation pilots. Power Plant offers Full Category A / One Engine Inoperative Performance.

Cairns Helicopters
Marine Pilot transfers by land on helicopter can also be arranged at Cairns Fairway. Helicopters are restricted to land-on operations under visual meteorological conditions.