Portable Pilot Unit Workshop: Colin Pratt


In Spring of 2015 Marimatech sponsored a ‘Piloting Workshop’ in Göteborg. Most of the attendees were representatives of Scandinavian countries, although there was a small UK contingent of Chris Griffiths (Medway Pilots) and myself. The opportunity to discuss, learn about and share information regarding Portable Pilot Units (PPU) proved exceedingly beneficial for all parties and certainly helped us on the Tees finalise the direction to take with respect to the type of hardware to purchase.

As this proved to be a very successful event it was suggested that a similar seminar could be arranged for the benefit of UK pilots. It was agreed that a suitable date and location would be in the North East of England in March 2016, possibly after any potential snow, hail or other eclectic mix of North East weather had subsided; the bad weather was indeed avoided as the snow, hail etc. arrived in May! The chosen venue was Hardwick Hall near Sedgefield, Tees Bay Pilots acting as hosts and Marimatech, once again, being  the sponsors.

The mix of attendees from different districts and organisations promoted interesting discussions, and the presentations proved thought provoking and informative. In all there were representatives from eight different pilot services, Chevron shipping, The Nautical Institute and South Tyneside College.

The aim of the one day workshop was to debate the needs, expectations and requirements of pilot services in the UK and to look at the possibilities for future development of carry aboard equipment and, more importantly, PPU software.

The day opened with Palle Herskind, Sales Director, welcoming the delegates and explaining that Marimatech had recently become a part of the Trelleborg group.

Chris Griffiths started the presentations with case histories of PPU usage on the Medway and highlighted aspects of the SafePilot software and the benefits of carry aboard equipment in general, SafePilot’s ease of use and quick setup being of particular importance. One of the points made was that anecdotal evidence suggests that use of PPU’s can lead to a more efficient operation because fewer engine and helm orders are made. Whilst possibly sounding controversial, pilots regularly using PPU software generally agree with this observation.

This was followed by the story of the development of carry aboard equipment on the Tees entitled ‘So you want to use an iPad?’. The presentation mapped the history and decision-making processes from 2002 to the point where iPads and SafePilot were introduced to the service. Like most districts Tees pilots are concerned with the size, weight and ease of use of the equipment. This claim of improved ‘relevance’ became a greater issue: would PPU give the pilot more than he already has available on a modern Bridge? This question was not lost on the CHA.


Further development in the size and weight of hardware, together with greater improvements in pilot specific software, brought us ever closer to service and CHA acceptance, not least contemplation of the ‘PMSC Guide to Good Practice’ statement:

8.3.5 Consideration should also be given to the risk reduction benefits of utilising proven technology that can provide additional complementary support, independent of ship systems, to both pilots and bridge teams. 

For the Tees the closing deal was the introduction of SafePilot on the iPad, which is now being taken up by a number of pilots in the district.

A key point raised in this and other presentations was the importance  of formal training to fully understand
the operation and functionality of both the hardware and software. This is something the Tees is currently engaged in with informal workshops and formal one-day training sessions.

The next and keenly anticipated presentation was that by Helene Peter-Davies of MFB solicitors and was entitled the ‘Legal Aspect of using a PPU’.

The initial discussion compared how traditionally a pilot was required to become conversant with the vessel’s bridge equipment within a few minutes of boarding, which means familiar equipment, such as paper charts, compass binnacles, radars, and VHF radio. However, the modern bridge has changed significantly. Paper charts being exchanged for ENC, radars long replaced with ARPA and vessel identification more likely to be found through AIS information than a VHF conversation. Yet the necessity to be conversant with the bridge equipment and other resources within a few minutes still remains.

Helene then highlighted the issues of liability, including considerations that determine when a right to limit liability may be lost. This covered not only pilots concerns but also those of a CHA.  So, having set the scene, the presentation moved on to how these legal considerations fit in with PPUs and their use under pilotage. The following extract is taken from the presentation notes.

‘As we have seen, a pilot’s job to integrate with the bridge team and understand the equipment onboard a modern bridge in the available time has been made all the more difficult due to the introduction of new technology. There is no doubt that new technology assists the modern navigator and a pilot should be equally assisted by this technology.’

The use of PPU means that the pilot has to hand a familiar version of new technology, a version and its functions of which he is fully aware, and, importantly, the limitations of the information available to reduce risks of miscommunication or poor interpretation of the situation.

With such advantages of using PPUs is there a question to answer as to why they should not be made available to all pilots, or even made a compulsory piece of equipment?

Scenario 1: Pilot decides to use a PPU

Scenario 2: Pilot is given option to use a PPU

Scenario 3: Pilot is required to use a PPU

To give due consideration to these scenarios, we first need to look at the legal framework of responsibility for navigation within a pilotage area.

We have already seen that the Pilotage Act 1987 provides a Competent Harbour Authority with the power to determine if a pilotage service is required. This is supplemented by (amongst other publications) the safe working practices promoted in the Port Marine Safety Code. Specific duties and powers of the Competent Harbour Authority are detailed with regards to navigation at section 5:

5.1 Powers to direct vessels are available and should be used to support safe navigation.

A pilotage service must be provided and is required in the interests of safety. 

5.7  Directions & Passage Plans 

The development of a port passage plan and the continuous monitoring of the vessel’s progress during the execution of the plan are essential for safe navigation and protection of the marine environment. 

Passage plans should therefore be operated and enforced using the powers of direction. 

From the Port Marine Safety Code it can be stated that the CHA is responsible for safe navigation and ensuring that support available for navigation (including pilotage) is executed effectively. This will of course include the use of PPUs within the pilotage area, because this equipment is used to support navigation.

Taking this one step further, not only does this mean that the CHA has the responsibility for deciding if PPUs are able to be used but also that the use of PPUs is executed effectively. The use of this equipment within a pilotage area cannot be overlooked by a CHA. Were an incident to occur due to the misuse of PPUs within a pilotage area, where the CHA was aware that PPUs were being used but omitted to take responsibility for their use, there is a risk that liability may well fall within the provisions of s22 of Pilotage Act 1987 and responsibility would rest in the hands of CHA.

It is therefore important that the CHA has a policy for use of PPUs within its pilotage area. Such a policy should, for a number of reasons, extend further than the statement ‘PPUs are authorised to be used’.

A CHA has, in addition to the responsibility to determine if compulsory pilotage is required in their port area, the responsibility for authorisation of pilots, including the standard of training and examination of pilots which should be at the minimum in accordance with recommendations of IMO. In particular this refers to IMO Resolution A960, where it states:

Annex 1 – Recommendations on training and certification of maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots

Pilots require ‘specialised knowledge and experience of a specific area’

5.3 Every pilot should be trained in bridge resource management with emphasis on the exchange of information that is essential to a safe transit. The training should include the requirement to assess particular situations and to conduct an exchange of information.

5.4.3 ….best practices in the specific pilotage area.

5.5.7 ….seminars on new bridge equipment with special regards to navigation aids.

7. Syllabus for pilotage certification and licensing

7.6 names and characteristics of the channels, shoals, headlands and points in
the area

7.8  depths of water throughout the area including tidal effects and similar factors.

7.9 general set, rate, rise and duration of the tide and use of the tide tables and real time and current data systems, if available, for the area.

use of radar and other electronic devices; their limitations and capabilities as navigation and collision avoidance aids.

7.28 any other relevant knowledge considered necessary.

Annex 2 – Recommendations on operational procedures for maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots

2.3 Masters and bridge officers have a duty to support the pilot and to ensure that his/her actions are monitored.

It is therefore insufficient for the CHA either to ignore the use of PPUs by pilots under their authority or to pay lip service to the use of PPUs. This is because, on a clear reading of the statutory provisions, and industry recommendations and guidance, the requirement to ensure training and examination (with regards to PPUs) of any pilots authorised for that pilotage authority rests firmly with the CHA.

How not to use PPUs : What types of checks and balances need to be in place to ensure pilots are trained and examined effectively in the use of PPUs, while also protecting the position of the CHA?

Error 1 – All PPUs are not the same.

• ENCs can come from different sources

• Programmes for running ENCs have different set ups

• Options for filtering layers/adding in additional information

Error 2 – All operators of PPUs are not the same

• Many pilots have spent the majority of their career using paper-based sources of information

• Difficulties arise from different equipment (re lack of IMO standardisation of equipment)

• Do not embrace technology

• Scanty information(comprehension of information/of bad information)

Error 3 – To synchronise or not synchronise

• Port information for hydrographic and tidal / gauge data may be available electronically

• Available to all pilots?

• Who ensures updates are received?

• Are units all compatible?

In conclusion:

• There are many reasons why PPUs should be used by pilots onboard a vessel to assist with the safe navigation in a pilotage area.

• Scenario 1 – Pilot Decides to use a PPU
A CHA should not overlook the use of PPUs within their pilotage area. A CHA should not allow the pilotage area to be navigated using equipment of an unknown type, with charts from an unknown source, with real time information being updated at unknown times from unverified sources.

• Scenario 2 – Pilot is given option to use a PPU
It is a question of pilotage area safety as to whether it is suitable for the ‘option’ of a PPU to be used onboard a vessel. Given that more vessels use ‘electronic-only charts’, and that there are almost 40 different models of enc/ecdis system, is it not safer for pilots to be fully trained and examined against a known piece of equipment rather than attempting to integrate with a new system every time he arrives on a bridge?

• Scenario 3 – Pilot is required to use a PPU
Where a CHA chooses to regulate the type of equipment its pilots use it should provide guidance, training, and examination of competency in the safe use of such equipment. Without this the CHA runs the risk of being exposed to claims should an incident occur due to the use of a PPU when unregulated.

So you can see Helene’s presentation certainly gave delegates food for thought.

Further information on how the Marimatech shore solution system was progressing and being implemented in Panama gave a good insight into the development and availability of fully integrated port systems. Whilst most delegates saw this as something for the future it was interesting to know that it is possible to start with the basic carry aboard units and, as time and needs progress, allow those units to be integrated into a much larger port-wide solution.

The first presentation of the afternoon was from Captain Elizabeth Christman, who had flown across from the Maryland Pilots Association in the USA. This proved a useful comparison to how American pilots deal with their legislative system and the process they have gone through before electing to use SafePilot and the associated carry aboard hardware. As an example, where we in the UK are generally keen to keep everything as small as possible (e.g. iPad mini on the Tees), the Maryland Pilots are looking to use the new and much larger iPad pro.

We were also fortunate to have a representative from the Norwegian regional ENC coordination centre, Primar, who unravelled the mysteries of the much-discussed S-102 format for electronic charts. This is part of the S-100 generic framework standards for hydrographic and related information and will eventually supersede the S-57 standard we are familiar with. Significantly for PPUs, the S-102 standard deals with high resolution bathymetric data and will give the user greater control of the visual chart display with respect to depth and depth contour interrogation. Whilst S-102 appeals to some of us, we are still some way from seeing this in circulation; in fact some say that most of you reading this article will have long since taken your pensions before this is implemented!

The remainder of the afternoon was taken up with opportunities for Marimatech to note what pilots’ experiences were when using the software and noting recommendations for future software development. There were further opportunities for discussion in question and answer sessions and time to look at and operate the SafePilot software and various hardware options.

The feedback from attending pilots, CHA representatives and the Nautical Institute suggest the seminar proved a worthwhile and informative exercise. Whilst delegates represented districts at varying stages of the implementation process it was good to see that all pilots’ concerns and ideas were being actively sought in the development of these and indeed all of the hardware and software solutions available.

It should be noted that shortly after the seminar Marimatech changed its name to Trelleborg Marine Systems.

We would like to thank all the people who made the seminar such a successful event. Any queries relating to the legal aspects reported above can be made to
hpeter-davies@m-f-b.co.uk at the shipping law firm MFB (www.m-f-b.co.uk).

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