Calls for higher standards among pilots

Algunos de los accidentes con practico que menciona est?n todav?a accesibles en la web, respecto al de Mobile, decir que ya han soltado al Capit?n

Del Lloyds List

By James Brewer

SHIPOWNERS and their insurers are pressing for higher standards for seapilots, as recent casualties bring the issue to a head.

On average, there is one substantial claim blamed on pilot error reported per week somewhere in the world.

Worries have been growing for some time in the International Group of P&I; Clubs, whose members provide liability insurance for more than 90% of the merchant fleet.

The group has started a database which shows that the average number of pilot incidents incurring claims of $100,000 or more per policy year is 52.

The average cost per incident over the five years to 2003 was $850,000.

While the frequency and cost of large claims appears to be stable, the group’s pilotage sub-committee, chaired by Mark Williams of West of England P&I; Club, is seeking to draw wider attention to the underlying problems.

At its next meeting, the sub-committee will be updated on incidents, including the 11-month detention of the master of a Rickmers containership which hit a dock at Mobile, killing an electrician, after following a pilot’s advice against deploying a tug.

It will also hear about the suspension by the US Coast Guard of a pilot for negligence in guiding the tanker Charleston too fast past an liquefied natural gas transfer operation so that a surge caused an emergency dock shutdown, cargo hose separations and the collapse of a gangway

Mr Williams said that the issue of pilot standards was a long-term problem.

He and his colleagues were aiming to muster support for the same mandatory approach by the International Maritime Organization to apply to pilots as applied to seafarers under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping convention.

The pilotage sub-committee has had talks with the International Maritime Pilots’ Association over IMO recommendations on training and operational procedures. Of some 260 claims studied by the group, groundings were the most expensive – four times as costly as comparable pollution claims.

Mr Williams said that some pilotage authorities were very good, but P&I; clubs were keen to see better training in bridge management and closer attention to master/pilot information exchange.

At Steamship P&I; Club, head of the European syndicate Chris Adams said: «A shipowner invests millions of dollars in a ship – and then hands it over to a pilot.

«There may have been only a small number of incidents, but when things go wrong they can have serious consequences for the shipowners and the clubs.»

The only major jurisdiction where the pilot remains responsible for command of the vessel is the Panama Canal, and the Panama Canal Authority will compensate if a casualty is the fault of the pilot. The universal rule is that the master remains in command, and the pilot an adviser.

Mr Adams said there was a need for the pilot to be better integrated into the bridge team, and P&I; clubs should be reiterating the advice on exchange of information ahead of pilotage, so that masters could convey details of any problems in a ship and its moving characteristics. The pilot should explain what the pilotage was going to entail, what resources were available and what tugs were going to be used.

Mr Adams pointed out that in the Mobile incident, the master had no criminal intent at all and found himself facing a severe penalty. He added that the Steamship board wanted the adoption of English to be made compulsory as the operating language for pilots. He said that while a master could intervene and take over from the pilot, the pilot might be communicating with the port authority and tugs in the local language. He was also concerned that the IMO did not deal with the issue of tugs.

Steamship’s commitment to loss prevention has been underlined by its decision to commission a detailed training package from its learning courses partner Videotel. The production, Pilot on Board, emphasises that rules alone are inadequate and calls for respect and openness between master and pilot.

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