PEC (Pilotage Exemption Certificates)

I work for a company on a European ferry service.  We have a number of sailings daily, all with PEC holders.  In the name of saving a few pennies the company are now rushing through as many masters and mates as possible to obtain their PEC.

As a major port user I’m sure considerable pressure is being put on the Port Authority to pass these guys with absolute minimum tripping requirements, rather than examining their actual ability.  I’ve also heard rumours that special allowance is made for their lack of ability in English.

The requirements for the port are six voyages in and six voyages out to sit an area.  As a comparison, a Zeebrugge PEC requires 24 trips in and out to hold and Zeebrugge is an easier port!

There have been several incidents in recent months among our PEC’s of touching bottom, close quarters situations and near misses with berths which can be put down to:

  1. Insufficient tripping experience
  2. Failure to make allowance for leeway on bends/tide
  3. Failure to proceed at a safe speed
  4. Little consideration to under keel clearance/adjusting ETA at the bar accordingly
  5. Lack of comprehension of English
  6. The over use of VHF as a means of navigation.


CHIRP’s Maritime Advisory Board acknowledges the different interests involved in this area of port operation and their views, but focusses on the requirements of the Pilotage Act 1987 and will continue to raise concerns in support of port marine safety management systems.

This report was forwarded to the port concerned for their assessment.  A disidentified extract from their response is reproduced below:

The allegation that the port issues PEC with minimal tripping and no examination is wholly unfounded. Oral examination, practical assessment by a Class 1 pilot, interview with a Harbour Master, briefing in port operations, assessment of competency and medical certification, and a check on English language ability, all contribute to documented procedures which are embedded within our navigational Safety Management System and ISO 9000 accreditation. These requirements are published in our Pilotage Directions. PECs are only authorised by the Licensing Committee, which comprises executive and non-executive members of the Board. In the matter of PEC administration, the port exceeds the requirements of the DfT Guide to Good Practice.

Readers may be aware that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department for Transport’s Ports Division  which sets out their respective responsibilities for policy, management and administration of port safety work and more specifically the Port Marine Safety Code and the accompanying Guide to Good Practice.

The MoU lists the Agency’s responsibilities and includes, amongst others:

“Day to day monitoring of standards in port; specifically do ports maintain the standards they have set out in their Safety Management Systems….” and

“Operational follow up that might arise from:

  1. MAIB reports.
  2. MCA Surveyor’s report.
  3. From other parties….”

CHIRP looks forward to continuing to support ports and additionally the efforts of the MCA in fulfilling their responsibilities under the MoU.