I am Master of a vessel that was on a coastal passage. We had a coastal pilot. Due to the length of the passage, I left the bridge to get some rest. The following is a summary of events told to me by the watch-keeping officer.
The pilot was using his laptop on the bridge at night. He had set this up by the bridge front windows. This laptop was not equipped with an electronic chart programme. It was simply a new machine that the pilot wanted to get familiar with. He was using it to surf the internet, for music and on-line shopping. While doing that he was also calling somebody on his mobile phone. This was a personal call as he was asking about activating a feature on his new laptop.
The light from the screen lit up the inside of the wheelhouse. At some stage the pilot went out on the bridge wing so the OOW closed the lid of the laptop in order to remove the impairment to his night vision. The pilot was upset about this when he came back inside. The pilot subsequently made other personal calls on his mobile phone.
I subsequently reported the matter to the pilotage authority. They thanked me for the report, agreed that the behaviour was unacceptable and advised that they had admonished the pilot.
We were pleased to note that the Master had reported the matter to the pilotage authority. Intervention to correct an unsafe situation is a key to improving safety. In this case the Master intervened by advising the authority. Had he not done so, the authorities would not have known of the problem and the pilot may well have repeated the behaviour on other vessels, perhaps leading to a major accident.
No doubt the Master would have preferred to have been alerted by the OOW as soon as he/she had a concern. It is important to mentor junior officers that they must intervene if they are concerned about any safety issue. In this case, the appropriate intervention could have been to call the Master.
There may be a natural reticence of some individual officers to challenge the actions of a senior person such as a pilot. However it is important that officers feel empowered to do so, and that the senior person responds constructively to such challenge.
(As an illustration, we recall a casualty in which the junior officer carefully plotted the track of the ship towards a sand-bank but did not feel able to express his concern to the Master who had the con. The ship went aground!).
This report is a good example of the need for Bridge Resource Management training, for ships’ staff and pilots.