A major charterer has observed that the maritime industry continues to experience an increasing number of incidents whilst vessels are berthing, un-berthing, or navigating under pilotage. Typically these incidents include collision, contact with fixed objects and grounding. The following failures of communication between the pilot and the bridge team management contributed to such incidents:
- Ineffective master-pilot exchange: Though vessel information is provided to the pilot by means of pilot card, pilotage plans are not fully reviewed and agreed by the master and/or not communicated to, or understood by, the bridge team.
- Failure to intervene: The bridge team failed to raise concerns, or challenge the decision of the pilot.
- Failure of bridge team to anticipate developing dangers to navigation.
- Insufficient manning of the bridge, resulting in reduced focus on pilot’s activities.
- Failure to discuss and plan the mooring arrangement during the master-pilot exchange.
- Pilot communicating with tugs and shore mooring teams in a local language not understood by the vessel’s bridge team.
- Communication failure between the pilot and the bridge team caused through premature issuing of instructions by the pilot before the master/pilot exchange has taken place.
- A thorough master-pilot exchange should include
- (a) Providing vessel’s information to the pilot as required by the pilot card,
- (b) Pilot’s plan of maneuvering the vessel at different stages, communicated to the master, and
- (c) Details of mooring/unmooring plan and tug arrangements.
- The language of internal and external communication should be agreed and documented during the initial master-pilot information exchange. The bridge team should get the pilot’s attention if there is a deviation from the above agreement.
- Vessel operators are encouraged to develop a proforma to assist masters in receiving and documenting the pertinent information and for easy communication with the bridge team.
- Appropriate bridge manning and delegation of duties are key to the success of the bridge team. Pre-arrival and pre-departure bridge team briefings are an essential step to discuss the final plans for vessel’s safe navigation.
- Vessel operators may wish to reiterate the master’s overriding authority when under pilotage and take steps to instill confidence in them to intervene when necessary.
- The bridge team should not hesitate to seek clarification from pilots regarding any aspect of their plans or communication.
Good interaction between the pilot and the bridge team, using an agreed communication protocol and supported by clearly understood plans, is essential for the safe and effective navigation of the vessel.
There is little doubt that procedures and checklists will NEVER work efficiently until and unless they have ownership by the USER of the documentation.