Tag Archives: pilotage

ACCIDENTS: No interaction between people, destructive interaction between ships

From the British Maritime Accident Investigation Branch’s Safety Digest 2/2011:


A 2,800gt cargo vessel collided with a 58,000gt ro-ro vessel as it was overtaking the larger vessel in the confines of a buoyed channel when they were departing from a major port. Local pilots were embarked on both vessels at the time.

The ro-ro vessel had recently entered the channel from a lock, and was steadily increasing speed as the cargo vessel approached her from the starboard quarter. The cargo vessel’s pilot assumed the ro-ro vessel would quickly increase speed and pull ahead, and initially was not concerned as the distance between the two vessels continued to decrease.

However, the cargo vessel continued to overtake the other vessel, and with shallow water to starboard it reduced speed in an attempt to prevent a collision. Unfortunately this action was ineffective as the cargo vessel was now so close to the ro-ro vessel that hydrodynamic interaction occurred between the two vessels. The cargo vessel took a sheer to port and collided with the ro-ro vessel’s starboard quarter.

The cargo vessel’s engine was stopped, but she remained pinned against the ro-ro vessel for several minutes. The ro-ro vessel’s bridge team had been unaware of the close proximity of the other vessel until the collision occurred as both vessels had been monitoring different VHF channels.

The cargo vessel’s engine was then put astern and she slid aft, along the ro-ro vessel’s hull, until she came clear of the larger vessel. Both vessels suffered minor damage as a result of the collision, but were able to continue on their respective passages.

The Lessons

  1. The cargo vessel was overtaking the ro-ro vessel and was thus the give way vessel. However, the pilot of the cargo vessel assumed that the ro-ro vessel would quickly pull ahead, but by the time it was realised that this was not happening, it was too late to avoid a collision. The pilot of the cargo vessel made an assumption, based on scanty information, that the ro-ro vessel was increasing speed. He should have ensured that this was the case before coming so close to the other vessel that a collision was unavoidable.[REMARK: Something like a “before overtaking checklist” might be useful in helping pilots and bridge teams avoid critical errors in this potentially hazardous situation. It might as well contribute to avoid the dangers of the “control and command” style of navigation in restricted waters. Pilotage is a complex act that requires orchestration rather than one or two bright soloists.]
  2. Hydrodynamic interaction occurred between the two vessels when the cargo vessel drew level with the ro-ro’s starboard quarter. There was a strong attractive force between the two vessels due to the reduced pressure between the underwater portion of the hulls. Mariners should familiarise themselves with MGN 199 (M) Dangers of interactionin order to be alert to the situations when hydrodynamic interaction may occur.[REMARK: A video from the Ilawa Ship Handling Research Training Centre can give you a better idea of how this sort of interaction between ships is about. There is also some relevant footage from the Port Revel Training Centre on the same subject.]
  3. The bridge personnel were not functioning as a team on either vessel. They had been monitoring different VHF channels and those on the ro-ro vessel were not aware of the cargo vessel until after the collision. It is essential that every member of the bridge team remains vigilant and fully involved in monitoring the execution of the passage, and that a good all round lookout is maintained when the vessel is in pilotage waters as well as when she is at sea.[REMARK: It’s about communication and awareness, after all. If overtakings are allowed in pilotage districts, everyone involved in the passage must be aware or made aware of this possibility and prepare for it accordingly.]


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MARITIME NEWS | US: docking pilot to hang it up after 40 years

He’s been handling some of the biggest machines on the planet for the last 40 years, and they keep getting bigger.

Coleman Summersett, 73, is a docking pilot. He maneuvers those mammoth cargo ships in and out of the Charleston port, a job that requires concentration and a delicate touch. There’s no room for error. Once these behemoths start moving, it takes a while to change direction.


The job also requires some physical strength and agility. Summersett hops onto a tugboat to meet a ship coming into harbor, then climbs a ladder three stories above the water onto the deck.

Once on deck, the bridge is another eight stories up in the air. Some ships have elevators to get there. Others require another climb.

Summersett has been working tugboats and ships since he was 15 years old, 58 years ago. He loves it, but he’s starting to feel his age. He is retiring at the end of the month.

“The ships are getting higher and higher,” he said. “I keep telling myself I’m as good as I ever was, but … I know I’m not. You hate to admit defeat, you know. Everybody gets old, I guess.”

It’s hard to tell it from looking at him. He jumps on and off a tugboat like a cat.

There’s no mandatory retirement age for a docking pilot. It was up to Summersett to hang up his hat at McAllister Towing, according to Vice President and General Manager Steve Kicklighter.

“Coleman is an amazing specimen,” Kicklighter said. “To be able to do what he does and go up the sides of the ships like he does on those ladders at (almost) 74 years old is amazing. I mean, you shake his hand, there’s still a lot of strength left there, you know what I mean?”

McAllister is one of two companies that provide tugboats and docking pilots for ships coming in and out of Charleston (Moran is the other one). The docking pilots work with the tugboats to get the ships docked or pointed out to sea.

Ships come into and leave the Charleston ports 24 hours a day. Summersett works 24-hour shifts, a day on and a day off. Eventually, the water becomes your life — the hum of the engines, the smell of the salt air mixed with diesel fuel, the rocking of the waves.

“When you got a job that you like to do, that’s wonderful,” Summersett said. “I’ve always liked being out in the open, out there in the hot sun and the wind and the thunder and the lightning. Every job is different. You have different crews and you have different boats, so there’s always a little challenge there.”

On the other hand, you’ve got to be willing to forgo a normal schedule.

“I tell all the young people that come in looking for a job all the time that it’s not really a job; it’s a lifestyle,” said Kicklighter, who has been working the water for 34 years.

“Honestly, there’s a lot of things you don’t get to do with this job. At 3 in the morning ships are coming and you got to get up and do it,” he said. “You miss a lot of stuff. You miss soccer games. You miss the ballet. Having said that, it gets to the point where that stuff starts to get irrelevant to you. You know you got to go do your job. It’s what you do.”

On the average, 11 ships come into or leave the harbor every day, S.C. Ports Authority spokesman Byron Miller said.

In the 1950s, when Summersett started working on a tugboat, ships would be in port days at a time. Now, a ship can unload, reload and leave in a day.

Ships didn’t start packing their loads into containers for quick transport until the mid-1960s.

Now, a single ship can hold enough containers to keep a fleet of trucks busy hauling them off. For instance, Maersk’s 958-foot-long Missouri, one of the ships that Summerset guided out to sea last week, can carry 4,824 containers.

“These guys have seen so much change, and the technology has changed dramatically,” Miller said. “The ships are getting larger and larger, because we want it cheaper and faster.”

Despite the demands of his job, Summersett has been married to the same woman, Nancy, for 47 years. They have a daughter, Samantha, who lives with them in Awendaw on a farm that includes horses and cows.

He plans to stay outside after he retires.

“I’m going to fish and hunt, a whole lot of it,” he said.

Source: http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/aug/21/harbor-pilot-to-hang-it-up/

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YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Looking forward to a golden age in pilotage

Helen Kelly | LLOYD’S LIST

STEVE Pelecanos jokes that he only became a pilot to enjoy the ‘retirement-like’ lifestyle.

In 1970s Australia, with a young family to support, the shore-based vocation must have seemed halcyon compared with its more capricious ocean-going alternative. But a quiet life was not to be for this outspoken Queenslander with a fire in his belly in an industry in need dire of modernisation. “Our obligation as a pilot is to look forward,” he says. “Unfortunately, there are many people in shipping that gaze in the rear view mirror and look backwards to a ‘golden age’ that is past.”

His most recent campaign is to fix the broken system of pilotage on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a system inherited from a previous federal government, which believed greater competition between pilots would drive costs down at some of Australia’s biggest trading ports. Continue reading


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GROUNDING ON THE REEF | Reef safety in perspective

From Lloyd’s List
THE grounding of the Shen Neng 1 has become a metaphor for many things, including: the developing world and its hunger for commodities; the new dominance of China in world trade; our global disregard for natural resources in the face of economic development; and the new global capitalism versus the need to preserve our world.

The common thread running through all of this is China and the implicit demands it is placing on nations that benefit from trading with it. But while these broad-brush ideas are satisfying, sometimes we neglect the details, where the Devil resides.

Take the name Cosco, which has appeared in almost all the dispatches about the Shen Neng 1 since it was grounded 10 days ago. The ship is owned by Shenzhen Energy Transport. Cosco’s only affiliation is part ownership in the company that manages the vessel — that is, not an owner at all.

But the symbolic neatness of having Cosco be the erring party was too sweet. Cosco, a state-owned giant, is a corollary for Chinese shipping power. Journalists had time to sort out the details, but why bother with inconvenient fact when hamfisted metaphor will do?

A little perspective is needed, too, on the charges of recklessness in navigation, which are still under investigation. Whatever the outcome, it was one vessel in one particular circumstance, not a symbol of universal disregard or imperilment by China — which has since apologised — of a natural wonder.

Australia, laudably, understands the value and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, and its citizens treasure this resource. But the reef itself has long been vulnerable to problems hampering pilotage. The piloting system was described by Australasian Marine Pilots Institute president Peter Liley as a flawed model.

The model was introduced in 1993 during a time, according to Capt Liley, “when economic rationalism was in its heyday and competition was thought to be a panacea to all our ills”. But the competitive structure that evolved does not lend itself to transparency, supervision or control, nor does it promote a culture of safety.

Truly protecting the reef will involve a considered look at all the problems, and less reliance on easy finger pointing.


I could not agree more. It was time someone came forward and said, “do not feed the hype, please.”

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PILOTAGE | Sao Paulo State Pilots (Brazil)

This video is about Sao Paulo State Pilots, the association which gathers the pilots who work at Santos, the largest port in Brazil, and it gives a fairly good idea of their work.

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SAFETY | Pilotage in question(s)

What we needn't have here is failure to communicate...

What we needn't have here is failure to communicate...

Some years ago, I came across a publication of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) named “A Safety Study of the Operational Relationship between Ship Masters/Watchkeeping Officers and Marine Pilots.” 

One of the parts of the study I considered the most interesting was the questionnaire that helped the TSB develop a more accurate understanding of the interaction among bridge personnel in pilotage waters. Its 20 questions turn out to be, in my opinion, very good and direct guidelines for those who are willing to improve safety of navigation and to evaluate pilots and pilotage services.

More recently, I realized that many of the questions could be rephrased and presented as parts of a checklist that could help pilots, masters and officers focus on what is essential for the success of the transit. As a result, I developed a basis for an after-the-pilotage checklist, to help assess the quality of the job just performed; however, I feel many of questions are also adequate for use during pilotage passages, in that they may give a head startand a guidance to the essential dialogue between the ‘ship’ and the pilot.

This is in no way a finished work. Comments are welcome!

Here are the questions:

  1. Did the master or officer of the watch inform the pilot of the manoeuvring characteristics of the vessel for its present condition?
  2. Did the pilot inform the master of local conditions which might affect the pilotage passage?
  3. Did the pilot inform the master of his manoeuvring plan for the vessel?
  4. Did the master ensure that the pilot’s passage plan and local conditions were suitable for the vessel?
  5. Did the officer of the watch monitor the vessel’s movement while the pilot had the conduct of the vessel?
  6. Did the officer of the watch plot the vessel’s position regularly while the pilot had the conduct of the vessel?
  7. Did the pilot assist the officer of the watch in the monitoring of the vessel’s movements?
  8. Did the pilot made sure his orders were understood and acknowledged by the officer of the watch?
  9. If the officer of the watch became unsure of the pilot’s intentions, does he ask for clarification?
  10. Were informative hand-over briefings, master to pilot, pilot to pilot, and pilot to master carried out?
  11. Were communications between the pilot and bridge personnel effective?
  12. Did the pilot, the master and the officer of the watch work as a team in the conduct of the vessel?
  13. Did language barriers make it difficult to establish an effective exchange of information between with the pilot and the master and officer of the watch?
  14. Did the pilot offer all necessary information regarding pilotage and manoeuvring plans for the vessel?
  15. Did the pilot ensure that relevant communications with traffic control centres or other vessels were conveyed to the master?
  16. Was the master apprised by the pilot of all safety communications regarding the navigation of the vessel in pilotage waters?

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The maritime pilot: untouchable no more?

The article below was originally published by Bob Couttie in http://maritimeaccident.org/2010/02/05/paying-the-pilot/#more-6510 under the title “Paying for The Perilous Pilot”. I reproduce it here because I believe there are important issues in the text that need further debate and deserve more awareness from the maritime industry — some of them I will write about pretty soon.

For now, let Couttie speak:

Thou­sands of acts of pilotage are car­ried out every year with­out a prob­lem but who pays his or her lawyers on the odd occa­sion when some­thing does go wrong? In Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon, appar­ently, it’s the owner of the ship.

One of MAC’s favourite legal eagles, Denis Bryant reports on his blog:

 “The US Dis­trict Court for the North­ern Dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia ruled that a state statute immu­niz­ing pilots from lia­bil­ity for dam­ages caused by their neg­li­gence in pilot­ing ves­sels is not pre­empted by fed­eral law. In the instant case, the insur­ance com­pany that ini­tially appointed defense coun­sel for the pilot on the Cosco Busan when it allided with a pier of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Novem­ber 7, 2007 brought suit against the pilot, ship owner, and oth­ers to recover its expenditures.

“The insur­ance com­pany moved for par­tial sum­mary judg­ment on its right to recover, rely­ing on a Cal­i­for­nia statute which pro­vides that a ves­sel shall either pur­chase trip insur­ance from the pilot or defend, indem­nify, and hold harm­less the pilot if an acci­dent occurs due to the pilot’s neg­li­gence. The ship owner and oth­ers opposed the motion, con­tend­ing that that the Cal­i­for­nia statute is pre­empted by fed­eral mar­itime law. The court rejected the ship owner’s argu­ment, find­ing that fed­eral law grants states broad author­ity over state pilotage mat­ters. Con­ti­nen­tal Insur­ance Co. v. Cota, No. 08–2052 SC (N.D. Cal., Jan­u­ary 27, 2010). Note: This deci­sion was brought to my atten­tion by my friend Charles M. Davis.”

So, you have to pay to defend the com­pul­sory pilot who bumped your boat, along with all the other stick.  You might mut­ter: “Well, of course it’s to mas­ters orders on pilot’s advice…” but read this thought-provoking extract of a rather thought­ful arti­cle on the Inter­na­tional Pilots Asso­ci­a­tion web­site, by George A. Quick:

“Con­fus­ing the issue on checks and bal­ances in the rela­tion­ship is the mis­taken per­cep­tion that the pilot is aboard in an advi­sory capac­ity. This is not true in actual prac­tice in pilotage waters or in the law as applied in North Amer­ica. The pilot “con­duct­ing” the ship gives all the direc­tions con­cern­ing the ships move­ment and it is the mas­ter who may advise the pilot as to the capa­bil­i­ties of the ship or its equip­ment or crew. If the mas­ter was actu­ally giv­ing the direc­tions with the pilot’s advice the ship would not be under pilotage and in com­pli­ance with the local laws.

”The dis­tinc­tion is impor­tant because if the pilot were merely an advi­sor whose assess­ment could be accepted or rejected at will he could not ful­fil his role as an inde­pen­dent judge of accept­able risks. He might be per­suaded to go along con­trary to his per­sonal judg­ment under the belief that the mas­ter would have the final or ulti­mate respon­si­bil­ity for accept­ing the pilot’s advice in the event of an accident.

”Although no Amer­i­can legal deci­sion has ever held that com­pul­sory pilotage was advi­sory in nature, con­fu­sion on this issue could under­mine the pilot’s per­cep­tion of his role. The “pilot as advi­sor” myth per­sists rein­forced by the entry in some log books “Pro­ceed­ing to master’s orders and pilots advice” that could have its basis out­side our legal sys­tem in some deci­sions of the courts in Con­ti­nen­tal Europe.”

So the Euro­peans have got it all wrong.

Sam Ignarski, writ­ing in Lloyd’s List, says: “Word in the small world of marine should go out that, as in San Fran­cisco, so also in Hong Kong and, we can imag­ine, any mature mar­itime juris­dic­tion cen­tre in today’s envi­ron­ment, the untouch­able sta­tus of pilots is no more.”

It is true that John Cota, pilot of Cosco Busan is doing time, and Hong Kong has fol­lowed suit by jail­ing the two pilots aboard the off­shore sup­ply ship Neftegaz-67 and the pana­max bulk car­rier Yang Hai which col­lided off Hong Kong with the deaths of 18 sea­far­ers. Evi­dently the untouch­able sta­tus is fray­ing at the edge.

We’ll leave these mus­ing with the words of Ignarski: “Of one thing we can be sure. The mod­ern need for an indi­vid­ual cul­prit in many soci­eties is not going to go away very soon and the crim­i­nal law can be a rather way­ward and blunt instru­ment in itself.

“So cer­tain is the progress of the crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of sea­far­ers in our times that a per­fectly good case can be made for it as a marine peril.” 

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