MARITIME | UK signals possible review of pilotage qualifications

Department for Transport indicates new government will review some aspects of pilotage provision

THE UK Department for Transport has rejected claims that it is failing to ensure harbour authorities maintain pilotage standards in UK ports, but has indicated that the new government will review some aspects of pilotage provision, including qualifications for pilots.

Pilots’ organisations say that government has an obligation to monitor and enforce safety standards in UK ports, including pilotage. In particular there are suggestions that some privately-run ports operate pilotage as a commercial product rather than a safety-related service. It is claimed that in certain ports there are insufficient pilots with the necessary experience to handle large vessels, although ports insist that they are meeting statutory requirements.

International Maritime Pilots Association secretary-general Nick Cutmore told Lloyd’s List: “The UK laissez-faire attitude is totally the wrong way to go, entrusting this to commercial entities is a recipe for disaster. We are diametrically opposed to the way the UK conducts its business on this.”

But the DfT says that under the Pilotage Act 1987 responsibility for pilotage falls entirely on harbour authorities. “The Department does not have a statutory responsibility under the 1987 Act to police the manner in which harbour authorities discharge their pilotage functions and the current policy is one of persuasion rather than regulation and enforcement,” a DfT spokesman told Lloyd’s List. “It is for the courts to determine whether a harbour authority has acted in accordance with statutory powers and duties.”

IMPA also claimed that this hands-off approach is contrary to IMO recommendations on governments’ responsibilities for pilotage standards. However, the DfT said: “The department believes the pilotage arrangements under the 1987 Act are sufficient to meet the IMO recommendation. However, this is clearly an important issue which the shipping minister will be able to discuss with the IMO when he meets with them in the near future.”

A draft Marine Navigation Bill published in 2008 proposed that the secretary of state require Harbour Authorities to employ only qualified persons as pilots and prescribe the standards of competence required. That Bill did not make it through the legislative process before the general election in May, but is under review by the new administration.

The DfT said : “All draft legislation in the pipeline from the previous administration is subject to review by Ministers before deciding how best to proceed.”

Source: LLOYD’S LIST

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