Pilot firm seeks to build staff facility

Uncertainty concerning available accommodation in Milford Sound has prompted Fiordland Pilot Services Ltd to seek approval to build a facility for its staff.

An application has been submitted to the Department of Conservation by Port Otago, on behalf of the pilot training service, for the construction of a four-bedroom staff accommodation facility at the Deepwater Basin accommodation activity area in Fiordland National Park. The application is necessary because it is on public conservation land.

Port Otago marine and infrastructure general manager Sean Bolt said increasing pilotages, more pilot visits and increasing tourism was putting more pressure on available accommodation and this facility would provide a guaranteed place to sleep, rest and get meals.

"There are some alternatives but we can't guarantee getting access. Given that the road can sometimes be closed and that we may have pilots/launch crew stranded in Milford Sound, we need to be able to provide them somewhere to stay. Also alternatives can be very, very expensive."

Fiordland Pilot Services was formed to develop pilot training and provide qualified pilots to visiting cruise ships in Fiordland.

"Increasing numbers of cruise ships means the requirement to have more trained and certified pilots ... having a pilot is mandatory for cruise ships visiting any of the sounds."

The application says at present there are four qualified pilots and another in training, all of whom assist visiting cruise ships.

"Port Otago Ltd recognised the importance of the availability of qualified pilots to protect the safety of the Fiordland region and its environment."

Submissions on the application are open and details can be found on the Doc website under consultations.

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