Masters Must be Prepared to Question Pilots

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The London P&I Club says it has seen a number of fixed and floating object damage cases in recent months involving ships with pilots on board which have underlined previously noted concerns about collision claims in which pilot error has played a contributory role.

In the latest issue of its StopLoss Bulletin, the Club, while recognising the practical difficulties and sensitivities that may arise, says the incidents serve as reminders of the importance of masters being ready to question pilots in cases where the manoeuvres being undertaken appear not to be progressing as planned or expected and if they appear to be creating risk of an accident.

It adds, "This is particularly so since reports suggest that, in more than one of the cases, although the masters were uncomfortable with the pilots' proposed manoeuvres, concerns were not raised until the casualties had become inevitable. The large claims that arose in these cases may well have been avoided had the masters intervened at an earlier stage."

Although concerned about the unduly large number of accidents involving pilots and the absence of regulation of the profession that shipowners themselves face and readily comply with, the Club acknowledges that the vast majority play a very positive role in contributing to safe navigation.

Elsewhere in StopLoss, the Club reports a 'near miss' in which a collision between a bulk carrier entered with the Club and a passenger ferry in the US was avoided only as a result of the very prompt actions taken by the master and pilot of the bulker. The bulker was proceeding under Mississippi pilotage when a local ferry crossed into its path. Efforts to alert the ferry proved unsuccessful. Only urgent measures deployed by the bulker's master and the pilot ensured that a serious casualty was avoided.

The Club says the incident emphasises the need for very close co-operation and vigilance on the bridges of ships navigating in heavy traffic areas.

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