01 FEB 2006
|"Pilot on board!"|
Areas of risk
Navigation-related accidents are traditionally split into three main groups: collisions, groundings and contact damage (typically collisions with piers, etc.). Despite more advanced technology, the implementation of STCW 95 and a strong focus on the human element as well as fatigue, the expected decline in number of accidents per year has not taken place. In addition, the tendency is that accidents are more severe and more expensive than ever before.
As indicated above, a pilot is sent on board because the national authorities have assessed that there is an increased risk in the area. This risk can be related to navigational hazards, geographical areas that are vulnerable to pollution, there can be special regulations related to the cargo that the ship is carrying. In some countries the master’s experience is assessed, after a number of pilot-assisted port calls the master may be approved for entry without pilot. There can also be other reasons related to, for instance, military installations in the area. It is also important to note that pilot requirements are at each individual country’s discretion. Rules may and will therefore vary from country to country.
So in situations where the navigational risk exceeds a given limit, national authorities respond by sending a pilot on board. This is where the challenges start: to a large extent bridge team management training focuses on co-operation among the bridge team and less emphasis is placed on situations where “outsiders” are introduced. Bridge manuals refer to “pilot to pilot navigation” and little or nothing is said about how to act when the pilot has embarked. In short, the pilot is expected to deliver the service he is paid to deliver and limited consideration is given to his co-operation with the bridge team. For that reason in many situations one does not achieve the desired increased level of safety; on the contrary, the responsibility for navigation is simply transferred from one person to another.
Voyage planning used to be a critical factor and the common response from the crew was “why should we plan the passage when the pilot always brings with him an alternative passage plan?”. It is Gard’s experience that this has improved: electronic charts have made it easy to adjust the ship’s voyage plan according to that brought on board by the pilot and attention from port state control officers has put this item on the agenda. It is also imperative that the pilot be briefed about the vessel’s manoeuvring capabilities. This includes rate of turn, propeller arrangement, output on the various manoeuvring orders and general ship data. In short, any information that can improve the pilot’s performance must be available. Many shipowners have developed so-called “pilot cards” for that purpose. These have proved to be effective and greatly appreciated by the pilots.
Language barriers have been and will continue to be a challenge; these can be related to communication between the pilot and the crew, as well as understanding the communication between the pilot and assisting parties such as shore staff, mooring boats and/or tugs. Very often these barriers can be greatly reduced by a thorough review of the passage prior to commencing it. The pilot can also be requested to communicate with external parties in a common language, or to translate his communication with them for the bridge team. Many accidents are rooted in surprises and unexpected situations that could have been avoided if the pilot and the bridge team had a common understanding about how the passage would be carried out.
The impact of commercial pressure should not be underestimated. This may result from a variety of reasons:
Cultural differences should also be considered. The pilot is perceived as an authority and in many cultures it is difficult to correct or even question a decision made by an authority. Corrections to obvious errors may therefore be delayed and in some cases not put forward at all. Reluctance to get involved in a situation has contributed to several severe marine accidents. In particular, this may be a problem when the master is not on the bridge. It is therefore important that all members of the bridge team have the necessary authority and confidence to interfere if they are in doubt. This can only be achieved by active leadership and involvement by the master. The IMO Code of Nautical Procedures and Practices also states: “If in any doubt as to the pilot’s actions or intentions, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall seek clarification from the pilot and, if doubt still exists, shall notify the master immediately and take whatever action is necessary before the master arrives”.