AMSA has been collaborating with the UKCM system vendor, OMC International and Rio Tinto and resulted to the fact that at certain times of the year, tidal conditions enable for some deeper-draught vessels with a full-form hull, to safely transit through Torres Strait, in full compliance with the requirements specified in Marine order 54 (Coastal pilotage) 2014 (MO54).
Specifically, the Marine Order 54 (Torres Strait draught variation) – Exemption 2019 (No.3) states that
Each pilot is exempt from paragraph 5(1)(a) of Schedule 3 of Marine Order 54 while piloting a bulk carrier of a tanker, under the condition that the vessel has a maximum draught of 12.5m or less, or the vessel is equipped with an active UKCM system within the UKCM monitoring area; Also the vessel should have at least one hard copy of the activated UKCM system transit plan, providing the transit plan in full detail and a type approved and fully functioning Class A Automatic Identification System.
Also, each pilot taking part in the 12.5m trial is excluded from paragraph 5(1)(a) of Schedule 3 of Marine Order 54 while piloting a vessel for the trial when the vessel has a maximum draught of 12.5m or less, and is in line with the additional criteria above.
Moreover, vessel operators should be comfortable in changing the schedules depending on the prevailing conditions, making sure that the net clearance between the bottom of the ship and the sea floor is maintained in accordance with Marine order 54, when transiting through Torres Strait.
However, despite the changes that will assist the transit of deeper-draught bulk carriers and tankers through Torres Strait, there have been no changes concerning the minimum depth (clearance) required under the keel, ensuring the same safety margin for transiting vessels remains in place.
In addition, as AMSA further explains
The under keel clearance management (UKCM) system helps large ships to navigate through the Torres Strait in Australia's north...Maintaining the vertical distance between your ships hull and the ocean floor keeps the keel free of the seabed and reduces the chances of running aground.
Over time, this has the potential to reduce the number of vessels transiting Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef as the change allows these ships to carry greater quantities of product with each voyage.
In light of shipping safety and seafarers' protection, AMSA launched in July a its 2019 Review of the North-East Shipping Management Plan (NESMP), to enhance the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Coral Sea region.