Tag Archives: shipping

The long and winding pilot ladder

This picture has just come across my WhatsApp…


… and the pilot scaled that.



2014/04/03 · 20:33

SHORTIES: Safety first — for whom?

In 1994, the American scholar Charles Perrow wrote an article named “Accidents in High-Risk Systems”, in which he reviews his theory of “normal accidents”.

On pages 14 and 15, he writes:

“Another interesting systemic factor that influences the number of accidents and their prevention is the matter of close proximity of elites to operating systems. (…) Thus, the nature of the victims im contact with the system should have some effect upon the safety of that system.”

This can be useful to understand why airplane hijackings are usually treated so differently from ship hijackings and why the aerospace industry is error-avoiding, while the maritime industry is error-prone, for example. The elite may be involved with shipping, but is committed to flying.

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[The] perceptio…

[The] perception that the masters and OOWs know well the local conditions and routines can lead both pilots and ship officers to take a lot for granted. Both groups can assume that they share a common mental model of the area and the plan, without having to review it together. This situation can lead to the bridge personnel and the pilot surprising each other. In a dynamic situation, this can easily get out of hand. One person assuming that another shares the same assessment of a situation can take action which the other does not expect. This places both of them in a difficult situation. Misunderstandings can build on each other, destroying mutual support or teamwork, and even leading to conflict. Prior discussion and agreement on the plan and mutual acceptance of duties and responsibilities, however, will usually foster teamwork.

Transport Safety Board of Canada (1995). A Safety Study of the Operational Relationship Between Ship Masters/Watchkeeping Officers and Marine Pilots. Available at <http://ntl.bts.gov/data/letter_nz/pilot.pdf&gt;

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2013/06/24 · 18:30

MARITIME SAFETY: Playing the pilot

HFW’s Joseph Botham explains why proposed UK pilotage changes have global influence

[Originally published in Port Strategy, 2013.03.29. Comments within brackets]

As the UK-Government supported Marine Navigation Bill (No.2) comes under close scrutiny by the national Parliament, there are wider implications for the Bill than its UK-centric focus implies.

Although comments, contributions and discussions surrounding the Bill are primarily UK directed, it would seem that the Bill is providing a platform for the consideration of issues which are of interest and of relevance to the industry internationally.

In the words of the International Marine Pilots Association, “…shipping is a global business and the position in the UK in terms of pilotage has to be considered in this international setting”.

Against this backdrop, the outcome of the consultation of the Bill may prove very interesting and influential in the call for a review and the shaping of international standards, regulation and requirements in respect to pilotage.

The Bill makes provisions in relation to marine navigation and harbours in the UK by proposing amendments to the current UK legislation relating to pilotage, harbour authorities, the general lighthouse authorities, the manning of ships, marking of wrecks, as well as extending the powers of port police in the UK.


Repeat business 

A previous draft marine navigation bill was presented to the UK Parliament by the UK Department of Transport and consulted on in 2008. The current Bill revives much of the contents and scope of this 2008 draft bill. Most importantly it revives certain provisions which came under close scrutiny during the previous consultation and the discussions which remained open. These relate largely to the levels of training and proficiency, and the standards required for pilotage in UK harbours in respect to the holding of a Pilot Exemption Certificate.

The Bill aims to reduce the burden on ports and the shipping industry while reducing regulation and improving safety for ships navigating in and out of harbours and the seas around the UK.

In particular, the Bill seeks to reduce the risk of potentially expensive accidents involving the improper use of PECs and providing ports with new powers to help implement their safety responsibilities under the UK’s Port Marine Safety Code which establishes an agreed national standard for port safety in the UK.

Under the current regime, only the Master or First Mate of a ship may hold a PEC.

A PEC effectively allows a Master or First Mate of a ship to act as his own pilot. Without any PEC holder onboard, a ship would need to make use of a pilot provided by the relevant competent harbour authority, which would involve the payment of pilot’s fees to the harbour authority providing such service – qualified pilots provide their services to ships for a fee, calculated in relation to the ship’s tonnage, draught and other criteria. 

Both a pilot’s expertise and that of a PEC holder relate to the specific navigational conditions in relevant specified harbours. This means that in order to be granted a PEC the applicant Master or First Mate must satisfy the relevant competent harbour authority of their experience and knowledge of the particular waters in respect to which they are applying for a PEC. It also means that PECs are not transferable between harbours/harbour authorities.

The Bill seeks to make the process of granting PECs more flexible by proposing to: (i) remove the restriction on the granting of PECs to exclusively the Master or First Mate of a ship; and (ii) extend the eligibility criteria and process for the granting of a PEC.

[The result would be that someone less prepared and probably more fatigued than a pilot could do his or her job, corroding the layer of safety represented by the pilots. This is mediocracy in action.]


Clamp down 

Initially, it was proposed that any bona fide crew member may hold a PEC. However, following certain comments and stages of consultation in the UK Parliament this wording of ‘bona fide crew member’ has since been amended to the now agreed term of ‘deck officer’.

This amendment of the wording sheds light on the central point of concern – the rank and level of experience that must be met for the granting of a PEC. There has been much discussion as to whether the pilotage of any ship might now be placed ‘in the hands of a deck boy, the cook or the man on the street’. 

In order to grant a PEC, the relevant competent harbour authority must be satisfied that the applicant has the skill, experience, local knowledge and sufficient knowledge of English to be capable of safely piloting one or more specified ships within its harbour without a qualified pilot onboard. 

[The level the applicant would have to attain must be at least as high as the one where the pilot is. Will it?]

The supporters of the Bill argue that this shift from the level of rank to the level of experience will ensure enhanced security while promoting efficiency and cost savings in respect to the execution by harbour authorities of their legal obligations.

[Nobody is in favour of inefficiency. Too much protection, and bankruptcy results. But one should not ignore that more efficiency often comes at the expense of ‘thoroughness’, as Erik Hollnagel puts it. In other words, there will be (over)simplifications, shortcuts and other actions that tend to erode safety.]

This proposed relaxation and widening of the requirements for the granting of a PEC has proved to be controversial. It has paved the way for an industry discussion in respect to the position onboard ship of a PEC holder and, the level of expertise and experience required by a PEC holder to navigate the passage of a ship in or out of a harbour both in the UK and internationally.


Safety first 

In particular, the level of personal knowledge and expertise of the local safe routes and hazards has been discussed and it is feared that the proposal could result in a reduction in pilotage standards among ships using UK ports. 

Some commentators see the changes as threatening safety in complex and often congested waters. In their view, the standard of training and examination of the PEC holder should be no more or less onerous than that of the pilot replaced. Others expect that the proposals would amount to a ‘dumbing down’ of pilotage capability and, in turn, increase the risk of accidents in UK coastal and restricted waters.

These concerns are not new; during the consultation of the 2008 draft bill it was also argued that pilotage requires experience, skills and professional judgment at a level which staff of lower ranks are unlikely to possess. One view was that a level of qualification for PEC holders should be set rather than empowering individual harbour authorities to assess each individual applicant’s merits.

In response, the UK Government has confirmed in the current consultation, that PEC regulation exemptions would only be made on the basis of demonstrable pilotage skill – harbour authorities will only be empowered under the Bill to award PECs to those who have the skill, experience and local knowledge sufficient to pilot a ship in the relevant harbour waters. 

The UK Government has also emphasised that, as a result of the proposed amendments, it would be easier for Harbour Masters to revoke PECs from individuals found to be lacking in ability.

Whatever the outcome of the consultation on the Bill, it has thrown an uncomfortable spotlight on the UK pilotage industry, one that has drawn global attention.

Joseph Botham is an associate at Holman Fenwick Willan, a law firm advising businesses engaged in international commerce.

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PHOTO: Maersk Leticia as seen from her bridge



2013/02/15 · 20:10

COSTA CONCORDIA: An organizational accident, after all?

It is increasingly clear to me that what took place off Giglio last January was an organizational rather than an individual accident. Have a look at the text below, from http://www.canadianbusiness.com/article/98536–court-experts-fault-captain-crew-owner-for-deadly-ship-grounding-off-tuscany, and have your say:

ROME – Court-appointed experts have squarely blamed the captain of a cruise ship that ran aground off Italy for the wreckage and deaths of 32 people, but they also faulted the crew and ship owner for a series of blunders, delays and safety breaches that contributed to the disaster.

The Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13 after Capt. Francesco Schettino took it off course and brought it close to the island as part of a stunt. He is accused of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated.

Eight other people, among them crew members and Costa’s crisis co-ordinator, are also under investigation. The court in Grosseto ordered the expert investigation to help it determine who, if anyone, should be put on trial. A hearing is scheduled for next month.

In a 270-page analysis, the four experts described in second-by-second detail the unfolding disaster as Schettino slowly came to realize the gravity of the situation. Using data and voice recorders to reconstruct the drama on the bridge, the report showed how Schettino failed to grasp for a good 45 minutes repeated reports from his crew that his ship was flooding and its motors dead.

The analysis came out Wednesday and was placed online Thursday by the Rome daily La Repubblica.

The experts contrasted what went wrong on board with maritime rules and procedures and determined that Schettino should have given the “abandon ship” order at 10 p.m. that night, 15 minutes after the 9:45 p.m. grounding against the rocks off Giglio.

Instead, the evacuation order only went out at 10:43 p.m. — and Schettino himself didn’t give it but another officer, in violation of maritime rules. By that time, passengers on their own had already reported to their muster stations with life jackets on, despite a decision from a crew member at one point that they should go back to the dining room.

“Madonna, what a mess I’ve made,” Schettino muttered soon after the collision, according to the transcript.

Beyond Schettino’s faults, the experts said a series of problems hobbled the execution of his initial manoeuvre and efforts to fix it, and contributed to the botched evacuation. Bridge crew members bungled directions and didn’t his understand orders because of language barriers. Other crew members weren’t trained or certified in security and emergency drills, the report found.

In all, the experts said, Schettino and his bridge crew showed “scarce professional seriousness” before and during the disaster, with Schettino joking just before the crash, after his helmsman again misunderstood an order, that he needed to do it right “otherwise we go on the rocks.”

And the experts said ship owner Costa Crociere bore blame, too, by delaying alerting coastal authorities about the emergency — a charge Costa denied Thursday.

In a statement, Costa said by law it was Schettino who was supposed to have alerted authorities about the accident, and that the captain assured the Costa crew on land that he had done so. And regardless, Costa said, Schettino’s reports to Costa’s headquarters were so delayed, “partial and confused” that the company couldn’t discern how serious the emergency was.

Yet the expert report said Schettino had “clearly explained the situation” to Costa’s fleet crisis co-ordinator in his initial call. Schettino was far less forthcoming when the Livorno port authorities called him after hearing word the ship was in trouble: in that conversation, Schettino only told the port that there was a blackout on board.

And Costa firmly rejected the experts’ claims that the crew was unprepared for emergencies, saying the “alleged defects in the certifications of some of the crew” didn’t affect the evacuation.

From the start, passengers described a confused and delayed evacuation, with many of the lifeboats unable to be lowered because the boat was listing too far to one side. Some of the 4,200 people aboard jumped into the Mediterranean and swam to Giglio, while others had to be plucked from the vessel by rescue helicopters hours after the collision.

Some passengers said they were shocked to see Schettino already ashore when they were being evacuated. Schettino claims he helped direct the evacuation from the island after leaving the ship. The report demonstrates how he refused several demands by port authorities to return to the ship to oversee the evacuation.

Schettino has insisted that by guiding the stricken ship to shallower waters near Giglio’s port instead of immediately ordering an evacuation he potentially saved lives. He has claimed that another official, and not he, was at the helm when the ship struck.

But the timeline in the expert report makes clear that he had assumed control with a verbal order at 9:39 p.m., after being called back up to the bridge to oversee the stunt, which he had planned as a favour to friends from Giglio.

Work has begun to remove the tons of rocky reef embedded into the Concordia’s hull, a first step in plans to eventually tow the wreck away from the island.

The whole removal process is expected to take as long as a year.

To learn more about organizational accidents, an interesting starting point might be Organizational Accidents: A Systemic Model of Production versus Protection, a paper written by Yang Miang Goh, Peter E. D. Love, Helen Brown and Jeffery Spickett of Curtin University of Technology, Australia. I quote the abstract below:

Production pressure is often cited as an underlying contributory factor of organizational accidents. The relationship, however, between production and safety protection is complex and has not been adequately addressed by current theories regarding organizational accident. In addressing this gap, this paper uses the methodology of system dynamics to develop a causal model to address the dynamic interaction between management of production and protection, which can accumulate in an organizational accident. A case study of a fatal rock fall accident in Tasmania, Australia was conducted based on the developed model and is used to uncover the intricate dynamics linking production pressure, risk tolerability, perception of safety margin, and protection efforts. In particular, the study demonstrates how a strong production focus can trigger a vicious cycle of deteriorating risk perception and how increased protection effort can, ironically, lead to deterioration of protection.

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SALVAGE: The wreck of Rena, dangerous as the “inside of a washing machine”

Salvage experts tasked with removing the bow section of the Rena wreck are working in dangerous conditions similar to the “inside of a washing machine”.

Frank Leckey, of US-based company Resolve Salvage & Fire, said salvors had to cut sections of the bow into small pieces and navigate their way along slippery surfaces while the ship was on a 32-degree list.

At the same time, the wreck was being battered by rough seas, making the job more challenging.

“It’s like cutting in the inside of a washing machine. The sea is coming in and it’s quite rough then it batters around inside the ship then it wants to get out again. The waves are rolling inside the wreck so it’s fairly dangerous for us,” he said.

“[The ship’s condition] has changed since we got here. It was 22 degrees – now it’s 32 degrees so it’s very steep and slippery. It’s like we’re walking on the side of a mountain.”

The salvors task is to reduce the Rena’s bow section to one metre below the water line at Astrolabe Reef.

This was done by cutting up pieces of the bow into 1.5-2 tonne pieces for a helicopter to lift to a waiting barge.

Mr Leckey said this was the first time helicopters had been used in a wreck removal.

“The equipment we’re using – the use of a helicopter – in a wreck removal has never been done like this before. The equipment we’re using is specialised, the crew are specialised, the helicopter is a new thing and the closer we get to the water we have to use special floating equipment, and divers that have five years-plus experience will be doing this, so it’s a big task ahead.”

Salvors spent nine hours at the wreck yesterday, from 7am, cutting the bow section into suitable sizes for the helicopter to lift. Once about 20 pieces had been cut, the helicopter was called to move the pieces to a waiting barge.

“From 1-2pm, the helicopter came out and they lowered a hook and we put the rigging on to the hook and loaded on the pieces, which were still connected at this point.

“Once the helicopter had tension, we cut the remaining steel and it was put on the barge. Then once it touched down, they released it and came back for the next load of pieces.”

Mr Leckey said this process continued for about an hour, until the helicopter had to refuel.

Salvors continued to cut sections of the bow until 4pm, when heavy rain set in. Mr Leckey said the crew could work in most conditions, except when there was heavy rain or lightning. A second specialised helicopter was involved in the salvage activities.

Mr Leckey said the Australian machine was able to land on the bow of the ship and transport crew to and from the vessel each day. A maximum of 12 crew could be on the wreck at one time, due to limited space and the challenging conditions.

Mr Leckey said the highest part of the bow was about 17m above the water and the other side was “practically under water”. Salvors were cutting “from the inside out” at both ends of the bow.

He hoped the project would be finished within 100 days.

He said the crew involved was from United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, Ireland and Poland. They were “the best possible team, the most experienced and perhaps the craziest to do a job like this”.

Meanwhile, the ship’s insurer, The Swedish Club, said marine life had returned to Astrolabe Reef.

John Owen, senior claims manager for The Swedish Club and who was overseeing the recovery project, said: “I’ve recently seen some under water images of huge numbers of fish, of great varieties and huge numbers, so the habitat is already being established by the species that are out there.”

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