I am a marine Pilot. I was allocated to board a coaster at the Pilot Station at 0200 hours. The weather conditions were excellent for this time of year, partly cloudy, very clear visibility and just a light breeze.
From the pilot launch, we could see the ship silhouetted and I thought straight away that something was not quite right. She had no navigation lights on.
On reaching the bridge I introduced myself to the Master and had the Pilot/Master exchange after which I just asked him if he would check his navigation lights. He gave me a ‘funny look’ and went over to the port side of the bridge consol. I then heard a muffled curse and the sound of switches being activated. Nothing more was said and we carried on with an uneventful pilotage but it got me thinking …
The navigation light panel was quite large and each individual switch lit up when activated. The ship appeared to be in extremely good condition with a North European Master and general mix of other nationalities as crew. Just shows on a supposedly well found ship fundamental errors can occur.
Readers may perhaps be not too surprised to read that errors and omissions in routine tasks do sometimes happen on ships. However, we would be horrified (or worse) if this were to happen on a plane on which we are travelling. So what’s the difference between the two industries? We observe, for example, that the disciplined use of check-lists is ingrained into cockpit procedures. In contrast, there appears to be a reluctance to use check-lists consistently in the shipping industry, despite the obvious benefits as demonstrated by this report. We would welcome your comments.
The pilots of the Red Arrows and Vulcan undoubtedly paid close attention to their pre-flight checks.