When a pilot arrives to the bridge, the first words which should immediately appear in the ship logbook are “under captain’s orders, on pilot’s advices”. They fix the close relationship between the pilot and the ship’s captain.
The role of the pilot is to assist the master by providing local expertise and appropriate advice during the passage of the ship.
In confined waters, the workload increases on the bridge; time and margins of error are reduced; the port activity and traffic are stepping up and the consequences of an incident or miscalculation could be really considerable. Specific knowledge in ship handling is absolutely required in a port.
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers STCW78 / 95, revised by the Manila Agreements in 2010, said that the presence of a pilot on bridge does not relieve the master of his duties and its obligations regarding the safety of the ship. In practice, it is the pilot who has the conduct of the vessel, after having exchanged information with the master on navigational procedures, local conditions and ship’s particulars.
Approaching harbours, rivers, ports and basins, pilots offer local knowledge and experience necessary to ensure the safety of navigation and environmental protection. They have an overall expertise on local rules, customs, and specific conditions existing in the port area. Pilots are aware of the activities, traffic, ferries, dredging operations, floating cranes, local movements, and also of all the other factors which may cause hazards to navigation. They are in charge of communication with port authorities, vessel traffic services, tugs and other vessels. Through daily practice, pilots develop specific skills and technique for shiphandling in narrow waters and port restricted area. They work day and night, through dense fog or strong winds, thus avoiding delays or allowing to carry the maximum load capacity by using maximum available channel depths in the interest of the port and the ship, therefore improving the fluidity of the traffic, and the economic competitivity of the port.
Moreover, it is compulsory for the maritime pilots, who are the first main player to board the ship when “under way”, to report any deficiencies regarding safety or environment to the Authorities.
Safe and efficient marine pilotage requires that marine pilots operate in an independant environment which allows them to exercise their professional judgment with an independent manner, without competition or arrangements with shipowners to carry on their general interest mission.