The Maryland Board of Pilots decided to enact a rule change that forbids on-duty pilots from using their phones, after the grounding of the Ever Forward in Chesapeake Bay.
According to board chairman Sandy Steeves, “the job of a state-licensed pilot requires absolute attention and focus on the job of safety piloting, navigating maneuvering, anchoring docking or undocking a vessel.”
Maryland banned texting and driving in 2013, but it was technically legal to “text and pilot” merchant ships while in state waters.
However, during 2022, one pilot’s decision to use a phone put the containership Ever Forward aground on an oyster bank, where the vessel stayed for a month as salvors worked to free her.
Recently, the US Coast Guard published its investigation report into the grounding of the cargo ship “Ever Forward” in the Chesapeake Bay, faulting the pilot tasked with helping the ship navigate the waterway.
More specifically, during the Ever Forward’s outbound transit, Pilot 1 placed or received five phone calls from his personal cell phone. AT&T records indicated that the calls totaled approximately 61 minutes of the 126-minute voyage up to the grounding.
The longest personal call placed was over 55 minutes, starting at 1903 and ending at 1958. Pilot 1 also placed a work call regarding the line handler issues that had been previously encountered, something not urgent and unrelated to the current safe navigation of EVER FORWARD.
Further, he sent two text messages at 2007 and 2015, a critical time period leading up to when the turn south into the lower Craighill Channel should have been executed. The Third Officer observed Pilot 1 looking at his phone at 2017, approximately one minute before the vessel ran aground.
Although Pilot 1 did not disclose the purpose of all of the calls, he stated that due to the duration of time pilots are onboard vessels, it is not unusual to complete various personal tasks while underway.
However, when Pilot 2 was interviewed, he stated that he was not in the practice of making personal calls while in transit and would only feel comfortable doing so in an emergency situation.
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