When accidents occur whilst a vessel is under pilotage, the cause is generally a collective underperformance of the bridge team, and it is recognized that the ships’ masters and officers will also have played a part, the Gard P&I Club said.
report by the International Group of P&I Clubs (IG) issued last December recorded a total of 1,046 incidents where pilot error contributed to or caused an incident from 1999 to 2019, with the annual average of 52 incidents equating to one incident per week.
An effective Master-Pilot Information Exchange at the start of the pilotage and a well-performing Bridge Resource Management during the pilotage passage, are important factors in a successful pilotage.
The training should focus on matters such as:
- Proper and diligent MPX, and ensuring that pilots are fully informed about any limitations of the vessel’s machinery or equipment, e.g. engine power, steering, bitt capacity etc.
- Understanding all aspects of the voyage plan for the passage under pilotage.
- The need for vigilance on the part of the ships’ officers in monitoring the progress of the vessel with reference to that plan.
- Officers raising the awareness immediately when any deviation from the passage plan is noted
- Communication with the pilot – especially when there are doubts.
- Encouraging officers to question a pilot where there is any uncertainty about the situation or the actions intended, and understanding the most effective way in which to do this.
- Reinforcing the understanding of masters that, with the sole exception of the Panama Canal, the pilot directs the navigation of the ship, supported by the bridge team. The master remains in command and has the right, and indeed the duty, to intervene if it should be felt that the actions of a pilot endanger the safety of the ship.
In view of the above, the Gard Club provided the following observations on how to improve safety onboard ships:
- focus on team and leadership training to develop a trusting and open culture on board with a “speak up” environment,
- conduct BRM training more frequently and improved familiarisation with equipment on board,
- share experiences and lessons learned from incidents through workshops attended by both ship’s officers and onshore personnel – the practice of merely sending out company alerts and notifications about incidents is of limited effect,
- shipowners’ top management should take an active part in group work sessions and safety discussions during company conferences and training workshops,
- have a crew on board who can communicate effectively in English between themselves and with others,
avoid single watch-keeping operated ships and have the master on the bridge when operating within port limits and confined waters,
- do not disable equipment alarms and pay attention to them when triggered, and
- ensure compliance with STCW, particularly in terms of safe/appropriate manning and hours of rest.