The Standard P&I Club has issued a pilotage bulletin to review the main features of pilotage in key maritime jurisdictions.Under English law, Section 742 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 has defined a pilot as “any person not belonging to a ship who has the conduct thereof”. In other words, a pilot is someone other than a member of the crew who is granted some level of control over the speed, direction and movement of the ship.
Pilots provide a crucial service to the marine industry,assisting ships to navigate through dangerous or congested waters. Most jurisdictions impose compulsory pilotage and while there are some generally applicable universal principles, there are significant variations in local regulations.
The Standard Club’s Loss Prevention team also reviews some recent research involving incidents of pilot error with a view to determining if any broad conclusions can be drawn. Any claims handler will know that many allision, collision and wash damage claims occur while a ship is under pilotage. This is no coincidence since pilots are generally engaged in areas and situations involving an enhanced risk to a ship. In general, professional pilots will be compulsorily required by local authorities during the navigation of dangerous or congested waters and berthing/unberthing operations in ports and harbours. Professional pilotage has been around almost as long as ships have been commercially transiting the seas.
The importance of pilotage to the maritime industry has not diminished with time. This is demonstrated by the fact that, unlike many other professions, modern technology has not threatened the pivotal role of the pilot with redundancy. The physical and economic realities of today’s shipping industry make pilots more vital than ever for the delicate task of manoeuvring ships of increasing size and advancing technology through risky and ever changing territorial waters. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has acknowledged that as skills and labour shortages become more pronounced throughout the maritime industry, seafaring standards are slipping and existing crews are becoming more reliant on the experience and local knowledge that local pilots provide.
George Curtis,Deputy Director of Loss Prevention, has said that,
“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.”
Local pilots play a vital role in the safe conduct of the ship as it approaches or departs from a port. This is often the most hazardous part of a voyage and, despite the specialised knowledge of the pilot, no person, or indeed piece of equipment, is fool-proof. A study carried out by the Pilotage Subcommittee of the International Group revealed that pilot errors caused some 260 claims with a value of over $100,000 in the policy years 1999-2004, an average of 52 per year. The average cost of each claim was $850,000, demonstrating the gravity of this issue. This study is being updated, but the casualty data still illustrates the magnitude of the problem facing the marine industry.
The research shows that a mixture of poor bridge team management and pilot error is often a toxic combination. Pilots are, after all, human and are quite capable of lapses of concentration and making errors during the execution of their duties. An effective bridge team can serve as a safety net in preventing those errors from escalating to a major casualty. Therefore, in order to monitor the pilot’s actions, the master and crew should have a thorough understanding of the pilot’s intentions and plans for the ship’s movements. This is the principal reason for the need to have a comprehensive information exchange between the master and pilot when he first boards the ship.
This activity should not be short-circuited, to do so would give all persons involved the illusion that they know more than they actually do, which can lead to complacency. Consequently, when serious difficulties arise, masters and watchkeeping officers often discover the deficiencies too late to challenge or aid the pilot. This last point is another key finding of The Standard Club’s recent study. Many of the casualties occurred because of the crew’s unwillingness to challenge the actions of a pilot or because they waited too long before making such a challenge. Everyone is aware of the sensitivities when such an event occurs, but masters and their crew should still maintain a high alert level and ask themselves questions continuously, such as ‘what am I expecting to happen next?’ or ‘why have we not slowed down as the pilot said we would during the master/pilot exchange?’ Challenges do not always have to be aggressive or alienating.
Further information may be found by reading the pilotage bulletin below
Source:Standard P&I Club