|“Pilots: A closed shop…” - Pilots hit back|
|Friday, 17 February 2012 16:42|
Nick Cutmore, secretary general of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association, has written to us in response the Terminal Conditions article “Pilots: A closed shop that helps only pilots” (published online on February 1).
Mr Cutmore writes:
Your contributor David Wignall concluded his piece on pilots with the thought that he had probably upset enough people already. It’s hardly surprising that he should anticipate such a reaction when his piece was so randomly constructed and short on facts. I was fascinated to read in the third paragraph that in the maritime sector we have a system which trains masters, teaches them to command, allows them to become familiar with their ships and understand how it moves and responds. In my 38 years in the industry I must have missed something. Relatively few Masters today are comfortable or experienced in manoeuvring their vessels and many are all too relieved to pass over the responsibility to a pilot. Indeed many are so relieved that they leave the bridge to catch up on paperwork during this process.
The assertion that pilots are put on board “billion-dollar” vessels with no real ideas of their capability is palpably absurd, but then of course we get straight to the heart of Mr Wignall’s piece, money. Having spouted all sorts of figures for pilot earnings (which don’t interest me in the slightest) we veer wildly back into issues of competence (which does). Are we talking here about earnings or skill? The technical credibility of pilots which he takes so much time to discredit is higher today and indeed far more necessary than ever before. The falling level of competence in bridge teams which has been acknowledged everywhere from IMO downwards seems to have passed him by. Maybe if Masters and crews were paid appropriately there may be more interest in high calibre people seeking a career at sea, but they are not and we have the situation we see now.
The final and perhaps most damning statements concern ‘institutional inertia’ and an apparent absence of training. Few professions are examined so frequently and so deeply as pilotage by administrations all over the world. Few have embraced new technology, in some cases completely without the support of their administrations or indeed any legislative encouragement more than pilots. The pilot’s carry-aboard ECS is a case in point – a pilot-led technology to improve safety.
Mr Wignall displays all the prejudices of those who have never had the responsibility of getting a ship into a port either as a master or a pilot and I invite him to take passage on a transit and make a few judgments first-hand rather than relying on tired old clichés based on perceptions about what lay-people think a person should earn or how difficult they imagine their jobs are. I for one would not make such judgments about managing ports or terminals. Then again, perhaps I ought to…
David Wignall replies: Nick Cutmore seems to suggest he sees a terrible situation related to training in the shipping sector if he believes, “Relatively few Masters today are comfortable or experienced in manoeuvring their vessels”. If that is the case how can such a safety risk have been allowed to develop? It is, fortunately, not my experience of the Masters I know, many of whom, I feel, would be deeply insulted by his statement. For Nick’s information, I have had the pleasure of passages into and out of ports on a range of ships.
Before writing the article I consulted pilots and went as far as to take advice on the text of the article from someone who has been responsible for the training and qualification of pilots in a major port. Whilst without doubt I will have prejudices, these have been built from observation, experience and talked about with many within the industry. Please can we all look inside ourselves to think about the serious issues that do exist? On the crew and bridge training side, Nick helpfully brings a few more of these out. We all need to take a discussion forward that actually looks for the facts and we should not try and convince ourselves that money is not an issue.
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