Letter, Y-tronics

Y-tronics :Letter

Dear Sir

Having read the article by Ed Neale in the October Pilot magazine concerning Ytronic Bluetooth AIS, I felt that the following would be of benefit to fellow pilots. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter : Self Employment


As a pilot who is now approaching his 40th year in the profession (May 24th this year) and who will retire at the end of the year I feel it incumbent upon me to express my own personal feelings for the future of our profession. It has long been my belief that self-employment is the ONLY way ahead for pilotage in the UK, this belief being strengthened by my experience of having been employed twice during my time as a pilot with the majority of my career spent as self-employed. My first spell of employment was for a period of 2 years whilst on secondment from my home port Liverpool to ALCOA in Port Kamsar, Republic of Guinea in West Africa and the second period was back home in Liverpool following the 1987 Pilotage Act as an employee of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company. This lasted for a period of 9 years whence we finally negotiated a return to our previous self-employed status.

I can say with my hand on my heart that the 9 years I spent in employment were the unhappiest in my career and which resulted in our Pilot Service reaching a position of rock bottom both in our remuneration and status as professionals. Happily I can report that since our return to self-employment in 1997 our status, remuneration and most of all our relationship with the Harbour Authority and its customers has improved beyond all recognition. I can equally say that the last 9 years in self-employment have been the happiest I have ever spent as a pilot and I believe that this feeling is largely shared by my fellow Liverpool Pilots. Comparisons between ourselves and shore-based personnel are now a thing of the distant past and rightly so. A Pilot is by definition “An independent professional person” who, whilst he is on board a ship, is the servant of the ship-owner (not the ships master as I have seen quoted) and is given the conduct of that vessel by the master. Lord Jauncey in his Judgement in the Cavendish Report following an incident involving a PLA pilot created case law when he stated that the 1987 Pilotage Act did not alter the status of a pilot as an independent professional person whether he be in the employ of the CHA or not.

It is my own personal belief that the 1987 Pilotage Act has seriously undermined the position of pilots in the UK and since the simultaneous dismissal of 136 highly experienced pilots on the number in January 2002 the number of employed pilots in the UK is now well in excess of those that are self-employed. The present government’s policy still remains that they would like to see all UK pilots in the employment of their respective CHAs apparently on the grounds that “they would be more accountable”. My own experience has shown that self employed pilots are no less accountable than their employed counterparts and if anything seem to enjoy a higher level of respect from their own authorities.

In closing I would like to say that those who know me are aware of how passionately I feel about self-employment and I hope that this letter goes some way to explaining why I have vehemently opposed those civil servants who have attempted to implement present government policy and reverse what we have achieved in Liverpool. Their policies are the exact opposite of what I feel should be happening. As a member of the Section Committee of the UKMPA I would like to make it dear that the views I have expressed are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of other members of the committee or of my fellow Liverpool Pilots.

Dave Devey, Liverpool Pilot

Pilot Gandalf

Pilot Gandalf


I was recently sent a copy of letter which appeared in your magazine from Pilot Gandalf. I thought this a fantastic fairytale, which could only be the product of a mind operating beyond reason in an ethereal world of fantasy.

Sceptical as to the truth of the matter, the necessary urge came upon me to enquire locally to see if anyone knew of these pilots who had journeyed beyond Middle Earth to the Kingdom of Aotearoa, in which lays the sleepy container terminal of the aforementioned Hobbitsville.

To my amazement I found that there were two such souls from the district of which Pilot Gandalf speaks and their quest to find the ‘Land In Which A Proper Port Marine Safety System Exists’ had been successful. By some magical process the sacred UK Port Marine Safety Code had reached these shores in advance of these men and by some equally mysterious method it had been implemented. The result of this is that there exist Ports in the Kingdom of Aotearoa where written pilotage procedures are normal practice and Bridge Resource Management (BRM) concepts are thought of as more than just ‘a nice idea’.

When those pilots arrived on these shores, MNZ, the Great God of Maritime Administration threatened to cast them out lest they obtain the contents of the chalice of BRM and thence be anointed through the process of Advanced Marine Pilot Training. And it was made so by the Ports which had taken these travellers unto their bosoms.

The Ports do fear MNZ? Not so, for indeed He is for the most part benevolent in His ways, such that the Ports can work with Him and an understanding through informed debate is reached. Do the big Marine Customers, travelling from far lands in their sky blue craft, act like crazed trolls, baulking at the prospect of a little extra time and expense caused by the slightly more onerous practices and procedures? Indeed they do not, since being far more enlightened than many Ports, they value the ability to show that all that it is reasonably practicable to do to enhance safe navigation is being done. All seem focussed on that strange sorcery that is professionalism and they use it against the darker forces of politics and commercialism in order not to destroy them as enemies, but to co-exist in an equitable bonding of conflicting interests.  Surely this Kingdom of Aotearoa is the embodiment of a maritime Utopia?

Regrettably the answer is no, for there can be no perfection. Mistakes are made, fault found, blame allocated and sanctions imposed. But increasingly the contents of the BRM chalice are being spread throughout the land, and the shortcomings of the mariner are being considered in the light of systemic error theory and human factors.

It would seem that the sacred ‘UK Port Marine Safety Code’ has been recognised in the colonies and acted upon far more diligently than in the motherland.

Best regards

Kiwi Muppet

Letter: Pensioner rep PNCP

Pensioner Representative on the PNCP

As the Pilots National Committee for Pensions has now been voted out by the Resolution at the 2004 Conference, the position of Pensioners Representative is defunct. The Pilot Trustees on the Pilots National Pension Committee stated that they can look after the interests of all pilots and pensioners, so it is time for me to accept that my position is no longer required.

In resigning as Pensioners Representative

and in the light of Joe Wilson’s letter in the

April 2005 Pilot I need to make certain

points clear :-

1.  There are now very few of the old stalwarts left who are aware of the fight with the Pilotage Authorities, and in particular Trinity House, to start the PNPF. Do the present day pilots know (or really care) about the threats that were made to some of the more vociferous pilots and the problems that were caused by the later entry of some Authorities, such as Liverpool – which caused and is still causing anomalies in some pensions.

2.  There can be no retrospective

legislation without a change in the Act

3.  The use of money from the PNPF to reduce the number of pilots in 1988/9

was not legal and should any future attempt be made to “pay off” pilots then full legal advice should be obtained.

4.  The money in the Pension Fund belongs to the pilots not the Shipowners or Port Authorities. It was a negotiated part of the pilot’s earnings, I know because I was involved. The fact that certain pilots and trustees did not, or chose not to understand is a matter which should not have been allowed to happen.

5.  The Pilot Trustees are enthusiastic but they should remember Courses and Seminars cannot replace experience. The best experience is not just attending meetings. As for the PNPF Secretariat they provide an excellent service but as with the trustees they

must remember the Latin saying: Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes”, which loosely translated means “who shall watch the watchers” and that is what the PNCP did.

Dan McMillan


Letter from past Editor

Letter from the past editor!

Without a doubt acronymic mania has invaded the world and the maritime administrators have not been left behind.  Not to be outdone our Editor has latched on to this trait with a vengeance and the last two issues of The Pilot were humdingers. As a grey-beard and ex-editor of the magazine I reckon he saved about 2 pages by using the dreaded acronym.  But is he missing a trick? I know he is wonderfully computer literate and I’m sure is a wiz kid at text messaging. Combine the two and The Pilot could become a mini tabloid and save all the large envelopes!  We could even have a text greetings column, on my behalf my grandchildren suggested: “It wz gd 2 hear my mate I.E.  frm MH(rtd) is stil wth us. Yak e da taf The recipient will instantly understand this!

To help the elderly could the Editor either spell out the acronym when first mentioned or give us an acronymic dictionary on the back page.

John Godden


Oh dear, wrists well and truly sore from this! It is always difficult to decide which acronyms to spell out and which can be left. I generally assume that the common maritime ones such as MCA, MAIB etc are known to all our readers but some, which are recognized by working pilots such as PMSC (Port Marine Safety Code) and NOS (National Occupational Standards) may be less recognized by retired pilots. I promise to be more considerate in the future. This does of course mean that there may be less space for my words of wisdom!  Did I hear “thank goodness for that”??


There’s gold in Them There Pilots!



You may well find that the ideal of providing the services of well trained and competent pilots, the substance of the Port Marine Safety Code and the 1987 Pilotage Act is ‘old fashioned’. I have always prided myself on the fact that I provide a competent and professional service to any vessel appointed to me by the CHA. This is a service required by the 1987 Pilotage Act and intended solely for the safety of the ship, its crew, the environment, the port and its infrastructure with the costs of this service being covered by the payment of the pilotage charges and as such, kept in line with inflation and other competitive restraints. However, the pilotage service is increasingly looked upon as being ‘a nice little earner’, with some CHAs using the old smoke screen of blaming compulsory pilotage for high pilotage charges and pilots themselves for all ills.

I believe that pilotage has become an industry, and just like any other industry, it has to make a profit. Do I hear you asking why? Then let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a pilotage district which was run effectively by two Marine Officers and a part time Marine Officer who would cover for holidays and sickness, a Harbour Master-come-Pilotage Manager and 14 happy and experienced pilots. No ship ever went without a pilot. The pilots were treated courteously but when pilotage became compulsory a new management decided that the extra workload would of course be absorbed by the happy pilots.  But this was not enough! “The pilots must become more ‘productive’. We will cut their numbers and increase the shipping by 15%”, the management were heard to say. And so it was. Pilot numbers fell to 12, “Ah” said management, “that’ll do nicely”.  But the pilots said “We have already absorbed a 15% increase in shipping and a 15% increase due to compulsory pilotage, how do you expect us to provide a service under these conditions?”.

The management in their usual manner made “No comment”.

The so-called happy pilots were exasperated and frustrated by this, and, enamoured by the scenery from the Lord of the Rings, decided that it was time to move to pastures green and found positions in New Zealand. Other pilots considered this to be a sound move, and soon New Zealand became awash with applicants.  This reduced the pilot numbers to 10.  Management during this time had not been idle. Oh no, VTS had been installed and the duties of the two-and-a-half Marine officers were taken over by 5 VTSOs, a new Marine Manager evolved, also a new Pilotage Manager, Harbour Master and Assistant Harbour Master were appointed. The 5 VTSOs, not trained in the ways of pilotage, complained that they were over-worked and over-stressed. This resulted in management instantly appointing two secretaries to assist in mopping their brows and thus adding another layer of potential misinformation.

It is said that the management became concerned that they had gone too far; it was the more senior pilots who had gone to “Hobbitsville” and a shortage of senior pilots could prove very embarrassing. In their wisdom they questioned the junior pilots as to the reasons for not wishing to be examined and progress up the pilotage ladder. They replied that it was impossible to train while on watch as they were always working and that they had not been sent on any of the courses required by the Company’s Training Programme.

The shortage in numbers obviously made the pilots very productive but extremely tired and stressed. It was not always possible to be in two places at once which caused the Ships Agents to be aggrieved as they could not get a pilot when they wished and indeed had to send vessels into port without pilots but still had to embrace a 25% increase in charges over five years.  Management held their breath and placed adverts in obscure publications hoping that, if they weren’t too fussy, they could find a few replacement pilots to boost numbers.

What of Government officials, do I hear you say! Surely they would intervene to ensure the PMSC was not ignored and as for the insurers, who have to foot the bill for all the accidents, they ought to be calling for the Pilotage Act to be repealed and for the pilots to once again offer a professional and cost effective service.  As I say, it is only a story. If it were true, surely, the shipping industry would never put up with such a situation, paying through the nose for a second rate service?  This is an abridged version of what was told to me, the full story (which has not yet come to an end) would make your blood freeze or boil depending on your viewpoint.

Let’s hope it remains only a story. The only concern is that behind every story there is a modicum of truth. Pilot Gandalf


PNCP Demise Letter & Reply



Those of you who read the letter put out with every copy of the October Pilot will be aware that the future of the PNCP was likely to be debated at this year’s conference. The proposal of the trustees of the PNPF was that they should take over the function of the PNCP with one pre trustee meeting every year to which the four alternate trustees, independent and pensioner trustees would be invited.  However, events took a different turn and at the pre-conference meeting of the Executive on the 16th November it was decided to put a simple Resolution to Conference, namely: “Is it the wish of the UKMPA membership to continue to have the PNCP as a sub committee of the UKMPA”. The trustees, Joe Wilson and Richard Williamson, reported that this was in order to facilitate the attendance of a second trustee at each of the PNPF trustee meetings paid for by the UKMPA out of the original budget of the PNCP. The other alternate trustee’s attendance is paid for by the long standing arrangement with the PNPF. The matter was put to a vote after a debate by the full conference later in the day and by a vote of 24 to 22 with 11 abstentions the PNCP ceased to exist.  This is a sad and unnecessary end to a committee that was set up to promote understanding of, and to advise the Section Committee on, pension matters. Indeed the very purpose of the trustees’ proposal to provide a second seat at trustee meetings for an alternate trustee would seem to be self defeating in that he cannot participate in that meeting and is strictly an observer.  The PNCP provided a forum at which all the alternates met with a trustee, pensioner and independent representatives and at which they could all take part in the debate.  They will now attend the same number of meetings in the year but will have no voice.  The PNPF pensioners have now been deprived of a voice as have 50% of the UKMPA membership who are members of pension schemes other than the PNPF. The T&GWU have a policy that the Union should be consulted on all pension matters as outlined by Peter Smith, the T&G pensions officer, on day two of the conference. I am therefore seeking the opinion of the membership on a resolution for next year’s conference on the reinstatement of a pensions sub committee on the basis of the PNCP as it stood until the 17th November.

Mike Kitchen, London

PNCP Demise

The January edition of The Pilot contained a letter regarding the former PNCP. The letter refers to the Conference vote regarding continuation of the PNCP, and that it was the trustees proposal to take over the function of the PNCP. This in fact was not the intention.

Pension law and Trustee duties are enshrined in various Acts of Parliament.  The Government want to place more responsibility on trustees, and requires that trustees be properly trained. A standard for training is required in the Pension Act.  The intention of the resolution was to allow for the funding of 2 alternate trustees to attend every trustee meeting (1 paid by PNPF and 1 by UKMPA). The alternates are in effect a trustee, they do not attend as observers, and do participate in the meetings.

We have recently appointed new advisers and actuary, after 31 years with Watson Wyatt. Our new advisors, AON, have agreed to give the trustees [free] pension training prior to each meeting. This will be primarily scheme specific, but will also keep us up to date with legislation.

The PNPF employ pension lawyers, financial advisers, actuaries, fund managers, all who are properly trained and qualified.  We also have the excellent secretariat under the command of Debbie Marten.

I would hope that UKMPA members, particularly PNPF members, will feel confident that the elected trustees are properly trained, and have a good knowledge of the PNPF and all other mattres relating to pensions. Each one has a legal duty to “The Fund”.

The letter also says that “PNPF pensioners have been deprived of a voice…”. I would say that every member; active, pensioner, deferred, etc has the same opportunity to raise ANY matter or concern with the trustees, the secretariat or section committee. In fact, Debbie says that they have seen more pensioners since the office moved out of London, and is in some form of contact with about 3 to 5 pensioners per day.

There is no need for a further body.

Those outside the PNPF should seek advice from a properly qualified financial advisor. It may be that the T&G pensions officer is able to give this advice, but I am unsure of his qualifications. General “non-PNPF” queries may well be able to be dealt with through section committee.

One thing I am sure of is that the best training is to be at our PNPF trustee meetings, and I hope that alternates will find the extra attendance worthwhile.

Joe Wilson

PNPF Trustee, Vice-Chairman UKMPA

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