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Marine Log

February 27, 2007

P&I club warning on pilotage problems

The North of England P&I club has reminded shipowners of the importance of planning passages from berth to berth and monitoring those plans particularly carefully when there is a pilot on board.

A research report recently published by the pilotage sub-committee of the International Group of P&I clubs, formerly chaired by North of England managing director Rodney Eccleston, reveals that pilotage-related claims continue to cost the shipping industry over US$ 44 million a year.

Groundings under pilotage cost an average of nearly US$ 8 million each--significantly higher than any other type of claim--and in most jurisdictions pilots are not liable.

"Navigation from the pilot station to the berth inwards and outwards is probably the least understood aspect of passage planning," says North of England's head of risk-management Tony Baker. "As soon as pilots come on board, many officers of the watch simply write, 'courses various to master's orders and pilot's advice,' in the log book and then relax, believing the most onerous task ahead is finding out how the pilot likes his or her tea."

The International Group report concludes it is vital for masters and watch-keepers to be in a position to judge when there is a departure from passage plans when berthing or unberthing.

"A suggested minimum requirement might be courses laid down on the chart and/or electronically, from pilot station to berth and from berth to pilot station, so that any departure from the planned track can be checked with the pilot," says Baker.

According to the club, the obligation to passage-plan to and from the pilot station can be traced to SOLAS, which requires masters to plan the passage taking into account International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines that state the plan should cover the entire voyage, from berth to berth.

IMO training recommendations for marine pilots require the passage plan to be agreed during the master/pilot information exchange, but also go on to state that it should be treated only as a "basic indication of preferred intention and both the pilot and master should be prepared to depart from it when circumstances so dictate."

Baker concludes, "The key message is for masters and watch-keepers to concentrate even more on safe navigation when there is a pilot is on board. Pilots are only advisors and their presence does not relieve bridge teams of their duties and obligations for the safety of their ships."

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