128th Annual Conference: Mike Robarts


The Association’s Annual conference was sponsored by Seasafe Ltd and hosted on the Isle of Wight, a picturesque location where delegates also enjoyed some summer weather. Association Chairman John Pearn opened the conference on 17th September 2016 at 0930 with a gavel presented to the Association from the Spurn Pilots. He commented that the gavel symbolised the need to ‘Stand together’ as Association Members and promote co-operation between people of different organisations.

John briefed on the work of Section Committee Executives over the past year and the long list of meetings and organisations they had met, briefed or carried out projects with. Importantly for us as an association were the continued meetings with the Department for Transport and with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. John congratulated the Liverpool Pilots on their 250th Anniversary and the award of the Freedom of the City of Liverpool. Important also was the opportunity to meet Louise Ellerman, a Merseyside MP and Chair of the Transport Select Committee.


John outlined the continued developing relationship with media contacts. Some members of the section committee have completed media training. Don Cockrill, now our Secretary General, mentioned ongoing work on renewal of the Association’s website. Members will receive an automated email inviting them to join the new website. A circular will also be sent out to members advising them when the website is active.

Executives of Section Committee briefed delegates on the duties carried out in their areas of responsibility. Peter Lightfoot, Association Secretary, welcomed new members to the Association and a new district formed by Tyne Pilots joining us. He recorded that elections of Regions 3 and 5 had been held and that Bob Watt and Peter Lightfoot had been re-elected, along with deputies John Parnaby and Matt Hill. He urged that should members change address or other contacts such as email or telephone numbers that they email the Association with the new details. Hywel Pugh gave us the good news that membership is increasing.

Bob Watt, Association Treasurer, in handing over his position to Jason Wiltshire, explained the Association’s financial state and stated that professional subscriptions would rise by £1 per month.

Mike Morris, Vice Chairman of the Association and Vice President of EMPA, provided information on the insurance portfolio. Discussion with insurers and professional legal advisers has shown anomalies between some Competent Harbour Authorities and the act of pilotage. The DFT have been advised and a Circular is to be sent out to members on the matter.

The Chairman of the Technical and Training Committee (T&TC) spoke about the work of his team. He commented on the work of the Marine Pilots Certificate and how the inspection of compliance of National Occupational Standards (NOS) would be achieved. It is envisaged that in larger ports compliance of NOS would be done by auditing the port’s CPD system.

For smaller ports this would be on an experiential system and auditing of an individual’s compliance with the NOS would be necessary. All applicants would need to have a check trip to comply with the performance element. This would mean training a team of check trip examiners. An awarding body still needs to be chosen to revalidate pilots. One good example would be attendance at an Association conference, because of the excellence content of its educational sessions.

The other project that the T&TC has been involved in is the Government’s Trailblazer scheme and the introduction by some port groups of a Apprentice Pilot Scheme. The Associations involvement is important due to our expertise and because it will help ensure agreed industry standards are met. Members with seagoing qualifications and experience currently enjoy a precedent.

EMPA President Stein Inge Dahn addressed delegates on the hard work and achievement of EMPA, in particular with the proposed introduction of the Ports Regulation. The Regulation proposes competition in pilotage and is supported by some maritime organisations.

The hard work of EMPA members in discussing and working with MEPs has resulted in this proposal’s rejection, the argument being that pilotage provides an essential and unique service to shipping, which if open to competition would jeopardise maritime safety, security, the protection of the environment and the efficiency of ports. The important factor is that the proposed competition has been rejected on safety grounds, an important objection that is now on record.

IMPA President Captain Simon Pelletier spoke about the strong link IMPA has with the UKMPA, not only by being members but having our Chairman on the IMPA safety committee. Simon during his three years as President has been able to meet half the IMPA membership and has enjoyed the diversity that each country or region brings to the organisation. It is the strength in numbers which brings the respect IMPA now enjoys.

IMPA is well respected at IMO and Simon welcomed the appointment of the new IMO Secretary General and was impressed with his sensibility, feeling he was someone who understood what pilots do.

The IMPA team has been working hard with IMO on a number of proposals. We have now been able to maintain that pilots may only climb nine metres. We are continuing to work with IACS on the rigging of pilot ladders. E-Navigation is now categorised and minimises interference with shore-based navigation. He judged E-Navigation to be pragmatic and useful. He said pilots had been pivotal in developing technology but that the role of technology and the local expert are very different. Technology may mean less risk but it has not eliminated risk and technology at best is only keeping pace with risk.

He reminded members that as Pilots we have an important duty to perform and are responsible for the protection of the marine environment and the safety of navigation. We work with bridge teams but are not subservient to them. This brought him to his next point. IMPA has been discussing with the Carnival Corporation complaints by our members at the introduction of CSmart BRM methods, which seek to place the pilot in an indirect or passive mode where regulation requires them to be proactive.

He concluded by mentioning meetings and organisations with which IMPA has been involved recently. These include PIANC, IALA, International Chamber of Shipping and bridge procedures review.

After the conclusion of the AGM and speeches by EMPA and IMPA Presidents the educational sessions began.

Professor Claire Pekan of Southampton Solent University explained the findings of project MARTHA, a follow on from the Horizon project into fatigue. Project MARTHA looked at short term and continuous sleep deprivation. Students were required to wear an ACTIGRAPHY watch to measure sleep quality and fragmented sleep, to ascertain possible side effects and health implications. These were also studied on different ranks on board ships. One of the most staggering findings was the lack of motivation at the end of a voyage rotation.


Vimal Choy, an Engineer from Svitzer, talked about design concepts in tug fleets. The most common tug in European waters is the Azimuth Stern Drive Tug (ASD). Design requests were for more bollard pull. We heard how Svitzer is developing designs that look at hybrid technology and increasing power while using the same length of tug. The ASD’s hull and hydrodynamics has been given better positioning stability and performance. He demonstrated why different designs of tug, for example Voith clients, had moved towards other designs, such as the ROTA tug.

Jason Woodward, a consultant from Safer Harbour Towage, spoke about how to reduce risk to tug crews. He provided analysis of recent accidents that exposed what the main contributing factors had been: speed, being out of position, and poor communications. These led to accidents resulting in capsizing, girting and swamping. He showed how pilots contribute to safety when they understand how different designs of tugs operate differently. Understanding tugs’ different operational capabilities improves a pilot’s efficiency, which is effected by involvement in tug liaison meetings at ports. The Port Marine Safety Code presumes that this happens.

Nick Jeffrey, General Manager of Solent Towage, gave an honest presentation on the findings of the company into the loss of their tug the Asterix in Southampton. Even as a well-run company complying with a safety management system, including crew training and operational limits, they had suffered a loss. He said one of the contributing factors was the emergency release system which even though tested and operational did not function due to the amount of onload weight. There was also a lack of clear communications and sharing of information between the pilot and tug skipper. He ended by mentioning a crew member of the fleet who has been awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for bravery in the rescue of one of the crew from the capsized tug.

The second day of conference was devoted to safety and casualty rescue from the water. The IIEC article by Gareth Wilson discusses what was involved.

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