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Marine Pilotage

Written evidence from John Clandillon-Baker FNI (MP 16)

1. What is a pilot?
The following definition was established by the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 which states that:
"Pilot means any person not belonging to a ship who has the conduct thereof."

2. What does a pilot do?
Basically the pilot is a seafarer who has detailed knowledge of a port approach or dangerous navigational area and who uses that knowledge to ensure the safe passage of a vessel through the pilotage district.

3. What is the difference between a Captain and a pilot?
The Captain (Master) always has command of the ship and thus has ultimate responsibility for the safety of the ship, its cargo and crew. The pilot has the conduct of the ship in the pilotage district and upon boarding a vessel agrees a passage plan for the transit with the master but is then responsible for directing the course and speed of the vessel to execute the passage plan.

4. Two Court cases have defined the term "conduct" :

The Tactician (1971): In this case the judge considered the meaning of the word "conduct". And stated: "it is a cardinal principle that the Pilot is in sole charge of the ship, and that all directions as to speed, course, stopping, and reversing, and everything of that land, are for the Pilot".

The Mickleham (1918): This case also considered the meaning of the word "conduct" and again concluded that if a ship is to be conducted by a pilot it "does not mean that she is to be navigated under his advice: it means that she must be conducted by him".

5. Why is a pilot required

Ships are designed to proceed fast and efficiently on passages between ports so when operating in a port they are operating in an environment for which they weren't designed.

Likewise, ships' Captains and officers are trained and qualified to navigate ships between ports but cannot be trained for every port so in a port and its approaches they are working in an environment for which they haven't been trained.

6. The 1987 Pilotage Act

In the UK all pilots operate under the 1987 Pilotage Act which established each UK port as a Competent Harbour Authority (CHA) and granted these CHA's full control of pilotage. This effectively granted powers without accountability to the CHA's, a factor that was highlighted by the Marine Accident Investigation Investigation Branch (MAIB) enquiry into the Sea Empress grounding in 1996 ( ) which states:

"The Pilotage Act 1987 gave CHAs the absolute right to determine the standards of training and authorisation of their pilots, whether or not those responsibilities were delegated, with no mechanism to challenge their judgement of what those standards should be. This is quite unlike the training and certification of ship’s officers where minimum national and international standards do exist. This is not a satisfactory situation, when inadequacies in the training and experience of the pilots might only be detected after an accident has happened".

Despite this finding, nothing has changed.

7. Lack of an Appeal procedure.

Section 3 of the Pilotage Act grants CHA's total powers regarding the selection and authorisation of pilots and also the power to remove that authorisation. Several cases have occurred of pilots being de-authorised and subsequent employment tribunals have failed because the Act doesn't contain any clause granting a right of appeal by a pilot against a CHA's action. This needs to be rectified.

8. Pilot Training:

The training of UK pilots is the responsibility of the CHA. Again quoting from the Sea Empress report:

"There are no national or international standards for the training and authorisation of marine pilots. At the 1993 United Kingdom Pilots Association (Marine) (UKPA(M)) Delegate Conference, a resolution to lay down appropriate general standards was agreed. This resolution was followed by a survey of all UKPA(M) pilotage districts which revealed significant differences in both methods and standards of training. A brief policy document on the recruitment and training of marine pilots, based on the survey results, was then prepared and distributed in 1995 to many organisations. A Resolution inviting IMO to consider developing such standards was adopted at the 1995 Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Conference (STCW). It was considered by the Sub-committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping in September 1996 and placed on that Subcommittee’s list of forthcoming work, so the development of international standards can be expected in the future."

Despite this finding 16 years ago there still isn't a pilotage qualification. Work was undertaken by the now named United Kingdom Maritime Pilots Association (UKMPA) with the sub group of the DfT, British Ports Industry Training (BPIT) back in 2000 and a set of standards were agreed and a standards document produced ( ). This document (now owned by BPIT's successor Port Skills and Safety) has been ready for incorporation into the Port Marine Safety Code for over a decade but this has never taken place because incorporation has been resisted by some parties. Likewise work, supported by the MCA, has been undertaken by the UKMPA to produce a pilotage qualification but again resistance from some stakeholders has prevented agreement on this issue being reached. In Europe a similar set of standards for pilots have been produced but again these have not been adopted by the UK.

9. Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC)

This code provides "best practice" guidelines for port operations but without any underpinning legislation seems to be an ineffective document.

10. Pilotage Exemption Certificates (PEC)

There is currently a clause proposed for inclusion in the draft Marine Navigation Bill that seeks to remove the requirement contained in the Pilotage Act for a PEC only to be issued to the Master or "bona fide" first Mate of a ship in favour of "any person". Pilotage is a highly skilled occupation and such skills can only be obtained through considerable experience. The only reason for downgrading eligibility requirements is commercial expediency and therefore must be resisted at all costs.When in port limits, ships and pilots are frequently operating at the limits of the vessels' parameters and this element of a ship's voyage is recognised by insurers as the time of highest risk. Also, many pilotage districts transit the highest rated environmentally sensitive areas designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Marine Environmental High Risk Areas (MEHRA). With a zero tolerance from the media and general public to any maritime incident, the potential risks of any deregulation of the existing PEC regime are unacceptable.

11 Conclusion

Statistics reveal that 93% of the world's trade involves shipping at some stage and every day pilots around the world handle thousands of ships in the challenging environments unique to their particular port. The considerable skills required to safely achieve this are generally ignored and therefore unapreciated. Pilotage is essential to the safety of shipping and the coastal environment and must therefore be regarded as an asset to be valued rather than a cost to be cut. It should be of deep concern to this select committee's members that, over 16 years after the Sea Empress disaster, the shortcomings of the 1987 Pilotage Act with respect to training and accountability have not been rectified.

September 2012

Prepared 26th October 2012