The three primary commercial wharves U.S. Naval vessels may use are the Iron Ore Wharf berth 1, New Fort Hill Wharf berths 2 West and 2 East, and Stokes Hill Wharf berths 3 West and 3 East (Figure XI-31). Table XI-16 lists the known specifications for each berth. Number 1 berth has mooring dolphins 226.4 ft (69 m) east and west, which allow the berth to accept vessels up to 807.1 ft (246 m). Based on tidal predictions, vessels with drafts up to 42.1 ft (12.83 m) have been accepted previously at berth 1, but any vessels with drafts over 36.1 ft (11 m) for berths 1 or 2 require prior permission. Number 4 berth is used mainly by smaller craft due to its relatively narrow entrance and shallow water inside the inner wharves.
A March 1997 survey was conducted to determine the depths in the commercial port. Surveys are continuing in various parts of the port in connection with continuing construction work and new development projects. Stage one of the new East Arm Port with 1607.7 ft (490 m) of wharf space is expected to be completed in 1999 with stage 2 set for completion in 2001. Cargo operations will be transferred progressively to the East Arm Facility while passenger and naval vessels will continue to berth at Stokes Hill Wharf or Fort Hill Wharf adjacent to Darwin's central business district (Darwin Port Authority, Undated).
According to the Darwin Port Authority, all berths are in good condition with Fort Hill Wharf being the newest and best built. Berth 1 is normally used for the discharge of petroleum products or loading of ores and bulk cargo. The Fort Hill Wharf is primarily used for container and Ro/Ro operations and Stokes Hill Wharf is used mainly for cruise ships and naval vessels.
All vessels entering the Port of Darwin should be equipped with Australian Charts AUS 27 and 28 and should be equipped with a VHF radio able to recieve Channels 6,10,12,16, and 67. Channel 10 is the port working frequency. During the months of November through April, a vessel cannot be immobilized without written permission from the Harbor Master and there must be a sufficient crew available at all times to move the vessel immediately if so instructed by the Harbor Master or his Deputy.
Pilotage is compulsory for craft exceeding 82 ft (25 m) (Defense Mapping Agency, 1994b). Pilotage for visiting naval vessels is sometimes carried out by Royal Australian Navy (RAN) officers. Pilots normally board in a position about 1 nmi northwest of Channel Rock Buoy (No. 6) at 12°25'S 130°47'E. By special arrangement with deep draft vessels, the pilot can also board seaward of Charles Point Patches Buoy (No. 5) at 12°20'S 130°42'E. In adverse weather, the pilot will lead the ship ahead to sheltered waters using the VHF radio. Two tugs, one with a 10-ton bollard-pull rating and the other with a 20-ton bollard-pull rating, are available. A naval tug with a 20-ton bollard-pull rating may also be brought to the port to assist during annual international naval exercises. U.S. Navy vessels normally use two tugs.
Facilities are only available for minor repairs to ships. There are no "heavy" industry repair facilities.
In addition to the general information listed in Table XI-16, the Port of Darwin provides current details on port facilities, navigation & pilotage, port services, and other information applicable to vessels using the port. The specific facts and regulations can be found in the Port of Darwin information booklet published by the Darwin Port Authority. Additionally, all vessels entering Darwin during the "cyclone season" are supplied with copies of the Darwin Port Authority Cyclone Procedures that set out in full the various stages of alert and preparation to be observed in case of an approaching cyclone (Darwin Port Authority, 1998/99).