112th Annual Conference: Swansea 13th -14th May

The 2010 conference was organised by S E Wales pilot, Gordon Harries and Milford Haven pilot John Pearn at the Village Hotel, Swansea which was attended by 44 delegates representing 22 districts. As usual with the two day conferences, the conference sessions were enlightened by an evening dinner / dance where a raffle was held in support of the Marine Society & Sea Cadets which raised £650.

The conference session was formally opened by UKMPA President, Lord Tony Berkeley.

Chairman’s Report: Joe Wilson (Tees)

Joe explained how frustrating and non productive the last year had been as a result of all the key personnel within the DfT, MCA and Port Skills & Safety having left. Progress on National Occupational Standards (NOS) and pilot qualifications had remained stalled but the UKMPA continued working on this issue PNPF: Joe explained the history of the PNPF to which every UK pilot had originally been a member and in 1972 there had been 1318 active members with 715 pensioners but the 1987 Pilotage Act had resulted in new pilots tending to join their port’s scheme and consequently the current membership stood at 181 actives with 1340 pensioners. Despite the low numbers, PNPF pilot trustees were still elected by the UKMPA and the UKMPA also dealt with general pension enquiries from non PNPF members and for this reason Joe felt that it was important that Pensions remained as part of the conference proceedings.

Membership: The current membership is 459. Joe estimated that there were probably around 200 pilots working in the UK who weren’t members and this was an area that the UKMPA was currently addressing. UNITE, continued to offer an excellent service and the Regional Officer (RO) should be the first point of contact for employment issues. Joe advised that all members should establish contact with their RO. Recent months had seen changes within the UKMPA Section Committee (SC) who continue to undertake an enormous workload on behalf of members. SC are all volunteers and much of the work isn’t evident to the majority of members but the work is vital to protect every pilot’s interests .

Insurances: Rob Watt ( Forth)

With Simon Campbell having been unable to attend conference, Rob, who has taken over as Treasurer from John Pretswell, gave the insurance presentation. Rob detailed the various policies and their benefit to members. In particular Rob explained that the compulsory Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) legal protection policy for members was a unique policy tailor-made for pilots which offered unparalleled protection for UK pilots. Having detailed the aspects of the cover, Rob warned delegates that as a result of some cases currently being processed, the current highest cover of £1m may need to be revised upwards.

With respect to the DAS policy, Rob explained that this didn’t just cover pilots when piloting but also other members of their family and provided examples of this. At less than £15 per annum this policy is extremely good value. Rob also detailed the benefits of the optional accident insurance policy available. This wasn’t restricted to accidents whilst piloting and members could opt in or out at any time. Several pilots had benefitted from this policy Rob concluded by explaining that this presentation had been given to the EMPA conference and had resulted in many requests for further details since it represented a level of cover and protection which was considered to be “Gold Plated” by European standards.


This topic generated considerable debate regarding the policies and cover provided. A question was raised regarding what might happen if the legal defence costs exceeded a member’s level of cover. This was uncertain but historically, in serious cases, UNITE had agreed to underwrite the continuation of the case. With respect to the legal protection of a pilot by a CHA which some pilots considered provided sufficient cover, a legal opinion had been provided to London that the Cavendish case had effectively removed any legal protection that a CHA might provide whilst a pilot was on board piloting because he was legally no longer employed by the CHA and therefore even if a CHA wished to represent a pilot they were legally unable to do so. Therefore any pilot who didn’t have personal insurance was potentially dangerously exposed to possible personal ruin. The Cavendish ruling has never been challenged and it was pointed out that in the case of the Sea Empress, it was the CHA themselves that took legal action against the pilot. There were currently three major cases being handled by the RSA insurance, one of which looked as if it would exceed the £1m cover. Another case which had been successful involved a pilot who had had his authorisation downgraded by his CHA. The policy had paid the difference to restore his salary.

A resolution from Harwich proposed that insurance cover should not be a compulsory requirement for UKMPA membership and that clause 4(d) should be deleted. In the subsequent debate, no delegates spoke in support of the resolution. The reason for the insurance cover being compulsory is in order to be able to obtain group cover at a reasonable rate for members. Alistair Gibson (Forth) explained that whilst he could understand the reasoning behind the resolution, historically, the group insurance policy had been introduced as a result of members having incidents and then turning to the UKMPA / T&G for legal assistance which had been a drain on the Association’s finances. A formal ballot was held over the resolution which resulted in

3 votes in favour, and 44 Against. The resolution was therefore defeated

Full details of the insurance policies are avaialable  on the UKMPA website in the members’ area

MCA & DfT Peter Wylie (Tees)

The MCA Brief includes: the Port Marine Safety Code Steering Group (PMSCSG), the UK Safety of Navigation (UKSON) meetings, The VTS steering group, and work towards a pilots Certificate of Competence with Port Skills and

Safety (PSS). Unfortunately the key persons with whom the UKMPA had been dealing in these groups have moved on or been replaced, so much of the hard work put in over the years is having to be redone.

UKSON: This meeting was attended with a deep sea pilot as traffic schemes and coastal problems were on the agenda. Recent work had included updating IMO resolution A486 on the use of qualified North Sea Pilots and getting a dedicated anchorage for Aberdeen approved.

ECDIS: Mandatory carriage of ECDIS starts in 2012 and the MCA are getting increasingly concerned regarding the safety implications of poor training.

VTS: The MCA have expressed concern over the closing down of the Severn Estuary Coastal VTS by ABP but are powerless to insist on continuation.

IALA: Guidelines on the provision of Navigational Assistance by VTS have been published and provide a well written set of advice. (Electronic copies are available from Peter on


PSS: The latest news is that recruitment is underway and that work towards pilotage Certificates of Competency is still high on the agenda. They are aware that our Technical and Training committee have all necessary documentation


PMSC: A refreshed code was launched this year It is more compact and user friendly than the original and is available on the DfT Website.

MAIB: The report on the Vallermosa has caused much debate. In particular the following paragraph caused concern that the MAIB considered pilots to be a “weak link” in the safety chain:

“ Evidence from this, and previous accidents, demonstrates the potential for Serious accidents to occur once pilots become the weak link in the safety Chain. “ [2.6.1]

Peter raised this at the last PMSCSG meeting and the “weak link” interpretation was completely refuted by all members and Peter provided the following extract from the minutes which clarify the MAIB statement:

• It was felt that manning levels were not a significant cause of this incident; rather, it was the crew’s lack of attention and willingness to transfer vessel safety to the pilot.

• With pilots being a single point of expertise, a breakdown could allow them to become a weak link in the safety chain.

• It was not easy for a pilot to decide if the crew are sufficiently engaged or not.

Peter considered this to be a positive and reassuring clarification. The other outcome of this incident is that as a result of the recommendations within the MAIB report, the MCA are discussing safe manning with the MAIB and the UKMPA are currently working with the UK Major Ports Group and the British Ports Association on the pilot / bridge team issues.


A question was asked regarding pilotage qualifications and Peter explained PSS had confirmed that a pilotage qualification was still on the agenda and that they were pleased that the UKMPA were prepared to input. PSS had also now accepted that a “Foundation Degree” was insufficient as a pilotage qualification.

Passage planning was also raised and in the subsequent discussion it was revealed that different ports had vastly differing interpretation of the requirements for both ship and pilot plans. Concerns were raised that the failure of the MCA to have a coherent inspection and regulatory system in place, coupled with the requirement for pilots to report any defects, resulted in the onus being placed on pilots to police ship board navigational safety practices.

EMPA: Peter Wylie (Tees)

Romania: Here competition is the norm and at the EMPA conference the Romanian representative had explained how, despite being government funded, pilotage was controlled by several different companies supplying pilots of varying qualifications and competence who were authorised for all ports. The major shipping companies controlled the contracts and attempts to form a united group had resulted in the suspension of pilots.

Holland: Peter was pleased to report that plans to introduce competition had been abandoned.

CHIRP Don Cockrill (London)

Don is the UKMPA representative and attends the quarterly meetings of this Government sponsored investigation body.. Although most of CHIRP’s investigations involve the leisure sector, it plays a very important role in navigation safety. Unfortunately, the budget is under threat Don referred delegates to his written report which detailed this funding crisis.

IMPA: Don Cockrill (London)

Currently IMPA had concerns regarding IALA who had been issuing documentation and stating policies outside the established IMO forum In particular IMPA were closely monitoring the e-navigation agenda and would be producing a common “position” statement on e-navigation for all pilots to refer to if asked what pilots’ opinions were. IMPA were also working with EMPA on the Romanian situation

Nick Cutmore (IMPA General Secretary)

Nick detailed the new pilot ladder proposals that were being debated by the IMO Maritime Safety Committee These proposals, largely drafted by IMPA were complete and ready for inclusion in SOLAS regulations. IMPA has built a good working relationship with Intertanko who were supportive of the IMPA proposals and had appreciated IMPA’s input into securing accommodation ladders by means other than welded points.

e-Navigation, The agenda has departed from the original ship / shore concept and was rapidly expanding to include freight logistics and port infrastructure projects. Such expansion of the agenda indicated that this would be a very long term project! With respect to the concerns with IALA, this stemmed from IALA establishing a “Pilotage Advisory Forum” (PAF). IMPA had attended the early meetings but had been dismayed by the ignorance of the members regarding pilotage issues and had therefore withdrawn from the Forum. Recently the IALA PAF had produced a paper for presentation to IMO which contained many elements not endorsed by IMPA. Consequently IMPA had attended the IALA conference in Cape Town and following raising their concerns at a private meeting, IMPA had reinforced their “position” that IALA had no authority to be drafting papers on pilotage issues by issuing a formal letter to IALA. This issue was on-going but Nick hoped to be able to release details to members in the near future.

LEGAL: Paul Kirchner,(Executive Director & General Counsel, American Pilots’ Association (APA))

The UKMPA had been very fortunate in that Paul had agreed to address the conference. Having been intimately involved in the Cosco Busan case he was in a unique position to detail the pilotage aspects of the case. Paul opened by stating that whilst this case had encompassed every aspect of pilotage, he didn’t believe that it had fundamentally changed US pilotage law which is different to that in the UK. What had changed was that this had been the first case involving a criminal prosecution of a pilot for “unintentional conduct”. This wasn’t for drugs or alcohol or a deliberate act but for negligence and strict liability (liability without fault). The prosecution had been brought under the Migratory Birds Act which dated from 1912 and made it a criminal offence to kill certain listed birds. Much of this case had been a result of its location in a very environmentally aware area and much time had been spent dealing with local and national politicians. Fortunately, the APA had been able to quash the draconian proposals that had originally been tabled and only minor local legislative changes had actually occurred as a result of this incident. These had been supported by APA as positive and the main changes had been as a result of “lessons learned” from the incident. Paul explained the unique American system of State & Federal pilot licences and also addressed the issue of a pilot as an “advisor”. APA agreed that the term failed to correctly identify the role of a pilot.

The issue of Portable Pilotage Units (PPU) had been examined and San Francisco was one of a minority ports where their local Association didn’t have a carriage policy on this and at that time only around 40% of pilots used them. John Cota was one who didn’t. The US Coast Guard considered that non carriage of a PPU by John Cota might be considered negligent and, in contrast to previous liability concerns, all Bay pilots now carry PPU’s. Although APA support PPU’s they are against establishing a national policy and left it up to the individual ports & pilots to decide their PPU type and carriage policy.

The pilots’ use of the ships’ navigational equipment had also been examined by the court and it had been unfortunate that it had been reported that pilots needn’t know how to use on board navigational equipment because that was the watchkeeper’s role. US pilots has for many years been arguing the contrary. Other areas examined included fog procedures, the pilot’s medical history and drug and alcohol policies. The National Transport Safety Bureau’s (NTSB) investigation into the case concluded that the cause was a loss of situational awareness coupled with BRM failure from the bridge team and the recommendations made regarding the APA had all been complied with and the main one of these was ensuring a comprehensive Pilot / Master exchange. It is standard practice for APA to be involved in any investigation involving pilots but their role is as an expert witness rather than as defence council and so this is usually undertaken by a recently retired pilot. The pilot representative is not allowed to be an attorney and proceedings are strictly confidential until the NTSB release their report. Due to a general lack of experience and knowledge of pilotage issues, such participation was always beneficial to pilotage in general and the Cosco investigation findings would have been totally inaccurate had pilots not been involved. The case was now used as a training example on MRM courses with the emphasis on presenting the facts as a discussion topic without the conclusions and recommendations. With respect to the criminal charges there were two charges of “unintentional conduct”. One was breaching the US Clean Waters Act resulting from negligently discharging a pollutant into the waterway and the other was the aforementioned Migratory Birds Act. The prosecutors were aware that they were setting a precedent by criminalising the civil law case of “unintentional conduct” so two further charges relating to making false statements on his health form were introduced to justify the criminal charge. A plea bargain resulting from pleading guilty to the Clean Water and Birds Acts resulted in a recommendation of 2 – 10 months imprisonment. Although the judge gave the maximum  jail sentence, in recognition of the civil unintentional aspects, she removed the fine and reduced the community service recommendations.

So why the criminalisation in this case? It would appear that John Cota was unlucky in that this spill happened in a very environmentally aware area with a very active and aggressive media which provided the prosecutors with an incentive to set a legal precedent and find an individual criminally liable for pollution. However, since the 1990’s legislation had existed in the US for such incidents to be criminalised but although the Cosco Busan incident did meet the criteria for a criminal prosecution to be brought, subsequent legal opinion was that prosecutors were generally unlikely to bring criminal charges against pilots for unintentional conduct Regarding general issues of concern to pilots, Paul offered advice that legally, the most important part was the Master/pilot exchange and that pilots should conclude every exchange by asking the Master if he had any questions and supplementing this by reminding him to ask if he had any questions during the passage. With respect to proceeding in fog, pilots should err on the side of caution and the decision should be jointly made with the Master and if either was uncertain then the ship shouldn’t move.

Voyage Data Recorders (VDR): are increasingly being installed on vessels and in the USA the NTSB take the position that if a conversation isn’t on the VDR then it never took place!

AIS is another technology that prosecutors believe provides precise information. APA had advised both the USCG and the NTSB that AIS information was too unreliable to be used as admissible evidence in any investigation. Despite this there were an increasing number of private companies providing AIS information to attorneys but there were also companies providing expert witnesses to refute AIS evidence. With respect to action to be taken by a pilot after an accident the advice is get a lawyer! In the US a pilot has the right to have an attorney and the attorney must establish whether a criminal prosecution may result. This is probable in cases of pollution or where there has been loss of life.

Insurance: US pilots don’t generally need liability insurance but have insurance to cover defence to protect their licence and some districts self insure by holding a fund to cover this. However US pilots are looking at taking out cover for legal defence costs and fines resulting from a pollution incident. Another important part of any response in the US is to hire a PR firm. A good PR company can ask appropriate questions to divert the press and also handle the press with respect to providing statements and organising interviews etc. Most pilot groups also have one or more pilots specially trained to draft statements and give interviews.

CRIMINALISATION Francois Laffoucriere (Le Havre)

In addition to Paul Kirchner the UKMPA were also fortunate that Le Havre pilot and lawyer Francois Laffoucriere had agreed to address the conference on criminalisation of seafarers in general and pilots in particular. Francois stated that the criminalisation of seafarers was causing great concern in legal centres as well as the IMO and he believed that the trend would stifle seafaring as a career and do nothing to enhance maritime safety. Why was this happening? It was basically the interpretation of “negligence” and increasingly around the world, even in accidents resulting from “force majeure”, prosecutors were pressing for criminal charges to be brought. Francois quoted the case of the acific Adventure which had been caught in a typhoon off the Australian coast which had resulted in 31 containers being lost overboard where they struck the hull and punctured the fuel oil tanks causing pollution. The Captain had been arrested and charged with causing pollution and was facing a fine of $350,000 if found guilty. It was considered likely that this charge would be successful. The difference between civil liability and criminal liability was that civil was to repair damage and criminal was to punish and deter.

Criminal liability: There are two elements required to prove criminal liability: A breach of the law (actus Rea) and the will to break the law (mens rea). Mens rea exists if there is Intent, negligence or recklessness. Recklessness exists if foresight of the consequence is evident but with negligence there cannot be foresight so prosecuting won’t act as a deterrent. Pollution is a breach of the law under MARPOL but only two criteria for mens rea are stated: Intent & recklessness. Intent is straightforward since a deliberate act of pollution is a criminal offence but recklessness is difficult to prove so prosecutors were using negligence to prove recklessness. Despite this legal necessity of proof of criminality, Francois gave examples where Masters & pilots had been found guilty even though such proof had been absent. Popular & media  pressure, resulting from intolerance of pollution, has led to a blame culture which requires a scapegoat in the hope that it would act as a deterrent and eliminate rogue operators! However in no cases of pollution involving seafarers had there ever been any “intent” so such prosecutions were meaningless. The IMO & International Labour Organisation had introduced resolutions on the fair treatment of seafarers and other legislation covered human rights and fair trials but in many cases these were being overturned by prosecutors. In Europe the situation was even more serious in that an EU Directive, which was ratified in 2009, overturns MARPOL legislation and gives the EU Commissioners powers to overrule States for any breaches of environmental law and impose criminal sanctions. Such criminalisation will never be a deterrent for accidental pollution and the maritime industry is concerned that this legislation will be a serious deterrent to anyone taking up a seagoing career. However insurance can be obtained for legal defence and this is now especially essential for all pilots. With respect to action to be taken by pilots following any incident, the officers’ union Nautilus had produced guidelines for officers and these were also useful for pilots: The most important of these is that you have the right to remain silent and should do so until legal representation is present. In conclusion Francois believed that no pilot could afford to be without legal defence insurance. Stating that “YOUR LEGAL DEFENCE INSURANCE IS YOUR LIFEBOAT!”

In the subsequent discussions the concepts of “negligence” and “recklessness” were explored which confirmed that prosecutors were analysing these words to justify criminal charges. All present fully agreed that no pilot could afford to be without personal legal cover regardless of employment status.

Technical &Training Committee (T&TC) Brian Wilson (Belfast)

Personnel changes: Roger Francis has retired and has been replaced by Kevin Vallance as Deep Sea representative.

Jonathan Mills has replaced Paul Wibberley as Deputy Chairman.

Brian thanked both Roger and Paul for their dedication to the committee.

During the last year the T&TC had met once with the second meeting being set to coincide with the 2010 SeaWorks Exhibition. Brian had attended the IMO Nav 55 as part of the UK government team to oversee the UK’s interests in pilot transfer arrangements and the overhauling of SOLAS V/23 with the drafting of a new resolution to replace A889. The steering group comprised of 22 countries and within that and coordinated by IMPA, were some 12 pilots. Brian paid credit to Nick Cutmore and Mike Watson whose expertise had ensured the successful adoption of the proposed pilot ladder regulations. Pilots should report any substandard ladders and refuse to board if in any doubt and if possible take photos and forward them to Brian. The success of the pilot ladder proposals had confirmed the value of UK pilots being part of IMPA and working together as an international body.

Foundation degrees: Hopefully this proposal had died a death but the T&TC, will continue to strive to ensure that any pilotage qualification will reflect the value of our work.

The pilot boat survey update had been completed by Dave Roberts and given to EMPA for their data base.

Kevin Vallance has worked extremely hard during his first year within the committees of the UKSON, Dover Straights Working Sroup, Sunk / Bristol Channel Working Group. In addition, Kevin had taken on the E-navigation brief and is working with EMPA to support an IMPA paper on E-Nav at IMO Nav 56 this summer.

Revalidation of Masters and other STCW qualifications: After 2012, pilots will have to have attended a generic ECDIS course and the committee are working on resolving the type specific requirement issue for pilots.

Azipilot – Gareth Rees and Nigel Allen have been busy all year on the project.

Personal Locator beacons (PLB’s): Prices of these are now under £250 and having undertaken a detailed survey, Brian personally approved the Sea Marshall 121.5 MHz devices which are salt water activated, intrinsically safe, have a homing rage of about 30 miles and all aircraft and rescue organizations can receive the signals. Despite the apparent lack of progress on some issues, behind the scenes the T&TC was proving effective and IMPA General Secretary Nick Cutmore confirmed that the UKMPA T&TC had gained recognition throughout the pilotage world as a highly professional and respected body.

The Pilot Qualification! Brian expressed his frustration at the fact that despite over 10 years of hard work, pilots still had no qualification because a pilot’s authorisation is not a qualification but something totally in the control of a CHA which can be removed at any time by them as had happened on the Humber and the Clyde. Generally, the IMO required pilots to have a qualification and it was in the whole Industry’s interests to have well qualified pilots. Despite this, the UK ports had stalled any attempts to implement a qualification, the DfT and MCA seemed powerless and so the status quo was unlikely to change.

The solution? Brian proposed that Continual Professional Development (CPD) could provide pilots with valuable protection by setting standards for re-validation and the same criteria could also be used for PEC holders. CPD was a recognised concept and the elements for pilots were already in place and widely used throughout the world. Brian then detailed how the UKMPA could establish a grading criteria endorsed by the Nautical Institute and / or the nautical colleges whereby such a system could be incorporated into the dormant National Occupational Standards (NOS) thus making it easy for the procedures to be adopted by the MCA / DfT. Since such procedures were fully recognised as a requirement it would be difficult for the ports’ lobbyists to resist them! Having created the framework to introduce such a system, Brian concluded by explaining to the delegates that it was now up to the membership as to how this proposal was progressed.

During the subsequent discussion it was questioned as to how CPD could provide the protection stated? It was explained that the major objection of the ports over the years had been the costs of a formal pilot qualification but CPD built on a candidate’s existing STCW qualification rather than requiring a new qualification so would be at no cost to the port. What CPD would achieve was that at the end of a pilot’s training period he would be examined / authorised as per the NOS criteria for his particular port and thus be issued with a formal qualification as a pilot. On-going training to progress through the grades would add endorsements to the original qualification as per the proposed CPD procedures tailored to individual ports. A pilot’s qualification is an IMO requirement under A960 and also a requirement of the PMSC so the UK had to adopt it and once implemented it could provide the security for pilots currently missing under the 1987 Pilotage Act.

In reply to the question as to how this could be progressed, Brian explained that the Nautical Institute were establishing a formal CPD programme and that the UKMPA T&T Committee had been in contact with the NI and they were happy for the UKMPA to participate in the programme. The T&TC would have to manage the pilotage aspect but in return would have the benefit of endorsement from a respected independent professional organisation.

What happens next? Under the remit from the 2009 conference the Section Committee would progress this matter.

In conclusion Brian thanked Liverpool pilots Jonathan Mills and Dave Roberts who had done most of the work on this project.

P&I CLUBS & PILOTS: Andy Kirkham North of England P&I Club (North) Loss prevention Department.

Andy provided an overview of North which covered 3800 vessels employing 100 claims handlers, all of whom were ex mariners. Like all P&I clubs North was a non profit Mutual organisation and was part of the International Group of P&I clubs (IG). Consisting of 13 P&I Clubs the IG held a central cash reserve and members contributed varying amounts dependent upon risk analysis. The structure was complex but basically each individual club covered claims up to £8M with anything over that being handled by the IG. The total maximum cover offered by the IG was £5.25 billion. Explaining his role as a loss prevention officer, this involved working with the ship owners to reduce the possibility of a claim arising and he was pleased to announce to delegates that following last year’s presentation, North had dropped the term “pilot error” from their statistics and now had pilot incident records. The object of these pilotage incident reports was to raise awareness and to encourage debate and most importantly the P&I Clubs were not there to allocate any blame. The pilotage incident reports no longer include cases resulting from engine or systems failures or even helmsman errors and so the only cases now considered as pilotage incidents were where it was considered that an act or omission of the pilot had been a contributory factor to an incident leading to a claim. The claims were now simplified into three groups:

-Damage to property



The number of claims was falling but the costs of each claim were rising rapidly with the average cost of each claim now around £1.5m. Of the three groups, groundings were resulting in the highest claims and this was very much a result of the pollution element. With ten years of data now analysed, a major report had been produced which broke down the data into countries and ports. IMPA had provided much useful data on pilot numbers etc which had enhanced the accuracy of this major report. Although this report was still in draft form there was evidence that it was already being studied and its content noted by a wide variety of organisations. One outcome of the report was that as a result of the vast increase in costs of claims it was possible that the P&I Clubs might become involved in training and standards of both officers and pilots. Andy then detailed three recent cases which highlighted how an inadequate Master / pilot exchange coupled with inadequacies of the bridge team had resulted in claims.

During the subsequent debate a question was asked regarding the case where a port was accepting larger vessels but the available tugs were of insufficient power. Could a pilot be liable for damage even if the problem had been raised with the CHA? The consensus was yes, because the pilot was effectively knowingly undertaking an unsafe act.

MAIB: Admiral Stephen Mayer

Stephen announced that he was retiring as head of the MAIB after 8 years but planned to remain active in maritime affairs and hoped that in some way he might help to reverse the worrying trend of the criminalisation of seafarers. Stephen then detailed the role of the MAIB and expressed his concern that there was still widespread ignorance over the status and modus operandi of the organisation.

The MAIB was not part of the MCA it wasn’t interested in enforcement of legislation, never carried out prosecutions and it was fundamental to the organisation that no information obtained during investigations could be used in a court of law. Stephen stated that he had never investigated any case involving a deliberate act. Errors were obviously made but he had never come across criminal intent behind those errors and no accident is ever the result of a single factor by a single person. Accidents always result from a combination of factors and one reason why the MAIB always tried to release their report as soon as possible following an incident was to try to avoid the finger of blame being pointed at a single individual. Stephen stressed the importance that the MAIB attached to their investigations being totally independent and this frequently meant resisting considerable pressure from other interested parties. Confidentiality was of paramount importance and the sole purpose of the reports was to establish:

-What happened?

-How did it happen?

-Why did it happen?

-What can be done to prevent a recurrence?

This ethos of the MAIB had slowly gained recognition and Stephen was pleased that an increasing number of countries were establishing similar investigatory bodies and in particular there was an EU Directive being introduced that would require all EU countries to have an investigatory body modelled on the MAIB’s “no blame” investigation procedures. It was essential that it was the MAIB rather than other bodies undertaking this form of investigation because the Police were solely interested in criminal investigations that would lead to prosecution and regrettably, all other bodies who may be involved in maritime investigations had a vested interest, either to exonerate themselves or their clients. The MAIB was unique in that by seeking to identify causes, their investigations looked beyond the immediate accident to on board practices and cultures that may be relevant in preventing a recurrence in the future.

With respect to the major area of concern, this continued to be the fishing industry where the death rate was 200 times the average. Short sea traders also frequently operated in an unsafe manner resulting from complacency but with the added risks of fatigue. The leisure industry resisted all attempts to introduce any formal competency which resulted in a culture where safety practices were considered a voluntary, optional extra.

To conclude his presentation Stephen referred to pilotage, which was unique in that pilots operated in areas where vessels were at their highest risk of an accident. Pilotage should therefore be considered as a high level risk mitigation service but it was essential that pilots were supported and should never work in a vacuum. Having undertaken the same passage, possibly hundreds of times it was easy for a pilot to drop his guard and traditionally, when under pilotage, the bridge team also relaxed their guard thus increasing the risk of an incident. Although everybody disliked the term, it was a fact that every single pilotage incident that the MAIB investigated had involved an element of complacency. During the subsequent discussion the following questions were raised.

With respect to defect reporting, should UK pilots’ status be amended to be a representative of the State rather than the ship owner as is the case in many countries? Stephen agreed that the current system contained confusing anomalies that served neither the pilot or the port.

With respect to the legal presentations, following an incident, should a pilot have legal representation when being interviewed by the MAIB? No! The whole ethos of the MAIB is that any information received during interviews is totally confidential.

Why is it that some in-port incidents are only investigated by the port authority? THE MAIB receive over 1500 incident reports per year. It is only possible to fully investigate 40 – 50 of these so unless it is considered that an incident is a result of a failure by a port or that there are important aspects of wider relevance then it is necessary to leave the port to undertake its own investigation. However, although a full investigation may not be made, the MAIB may recommend that the CHA examine / address specific elements of an incident and will subsequently check that this has been done.

Can individuals object to the content of a report rior to publication? Part of the process is full consultation and all parties are given the opportunity to respond prior to publication. The MAIB have to carefully analyse all the responses because again it is fundamental to the existence of the MAIB that the final report is accurate.

Does the MAIB use outside consultants? Yes, but only to ensure accuracy of detail outside the sphere of expertise of the MAIB investigators For example external experts were used regarding the behaviour of Becker rudders in the Vallermosa report.

At the end of the discussions, UKMPA chairman, Joe Wilson, presented Stephen with a UKMPA plaque as a gesture of thanks for the interest that he had shown in the Association and pilotage issues by his attendance at many conferences during his time as Chief Investigator. This recognition was supported by the delegates offering warm applause.

DfT: Ian Timpson (Ports division – Navigation Safety)

Following an introduction by Chairman Joe Wilson, Ian detailed his role which includes responsibility for the PMSC. Explaining the history behind the Code he explained that although it was a voluntary document, it did link in with legislation and CHA’s were required to comply with its provisions. Having been designed as a “living” document an updating “refresh” process had recently been undertaken in order to ensure that it reflected current best practice and correctly integrated with existing and new legislation along with MAIB recommendations. Ian detailed the various sections and indicated where and why revisions had taken place and explained the difference between the “duty holder” and “designated person”. With respect to what happens next with the Code, the important issues were the monitoring of the effectiveness of the Code, the enforcement of its provisions and the relationship between what he referred to as the “wet & dry” aspects of port operations. With the PMSC covering the “wet” aspects and the H&SE dealing with the “dry” there is a debate over whether the two bodies should be merged. Ian summed up the ethos of port safety as being that everyone was responsible and the duty holder was accountable


What was the current position of the DfT regarding the situation on the Clyde where it was reported that there were currently no Class 1 pilots? There were acknowledged problems on the Clyde and the MCA had undertaken a verification visit in 2009. There had also been an incident investigation by the MAIB which had identified areas of concern. The outcome of the visit and MAIB’s report had been that there was now a “dedicated person” in place and assurance had been received that the identified areas of concern were being addressed.

What can the DfT do if it became evident that a port was not compliant with the Code? This would be up to the relevant government Minister but one course of action could be making the Code mandatory but that in itself created problems in that it would set minimum standards whereas the aim of the Code was to establish best practice.

Whilst acknowledging that the majority of ports might be doing their best to comply with the Code there was a general impression that it seemed to lack “teeth” ? Some aspects of the Code were supported by legislation and the accountability of the duty holder should be sufficient to ensure all CHA’s were compliant. Also, the fact that the code was voluntary wouldn’t prevent a judge examining compliance issues should they become relevant to any court proceedings. There were also provisions for the Secretary of State to intervene in a non compliant CHA contained within the draft Marine Bill.


The full conference minutes are available for members on request or from the UKMPA website:

One Response to “112th Annual Conference: Swansea 13th -14th May”

October 21st, 2010 at 13:59

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