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Defensive Pilotage Techniques

In EHS circles and Insurance sectors we may have come across this word “Defensive Driving techniques”.

Below excerpt from Wikipedia

“Defensive driving skills is "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others."[1] This definition is taken from the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course. It is a form of training for motor vehicle drivers that goes beyond mastery of the rules of the road and the basic mechanics of driving. Its aim is to reduce the risk of collision by anticipating dangerous situations, despite adverse conditions or the mistakes of others. This can be achieved through adherence to a variety of general guidelines, such as following the assured clear distance ahead and two second rules, as well as the practice of specific driving techniques. Some motorists describe defensive driving as "driving as if everyone else on the road were drunk."

Now why are we discussing this at a maritime pilotage Forum?

Well the stakes are much more high in Maritime pilotage as compared to road driving, as world has learnt during Suez Incident. Here single Pilot is conducting the navigation of say a Large ULCS (Ultra large container ship) costing about 120 million USD and loaded with another few hundred million of cargo with Dimensions of 400 mtr long and 60 mtr wide, with weight about 2.5 lac tons. So the approach which looked bold and classy in past may look foolish now if not done with adequate contingency.

So it becomes increasingly important that wherever possible maneuvers should be done in such way that failure of one single equipment (engine failure, tug rope parting, tug failure etc.) does not put vessel into immediate danger and pilots get time to react to situation even if such maneuverings practices take little more time.

Well as such during pilotage we are always taking into account contingencies, Due regard to weather, other activities happening in area, other movements etc.

So what new things will we discuss here? I will try to explain with few example:-

  1. Lets say when you are trying to berth between 2 berthed vessels. It’s better to bring vessel parallel to berth and completely stop headway/sternway about 2 beam distance off the berth. So that if by any chance engines fail to kick and vessels headway/sternway is not controlled, you still remain clear line of berthed vessels. That way you get more time to handle the situation, and one single failure (engine failure) does not endanger the vessels. Like in one of the port I worked we had clear instructions while falling back of moving ahead not to come less than 130 mtr off the berth i.e. keep out of leading light line until clear of fwd and aft vessels, once almost in position vessel to be pushed sideways.

  2. When unberthing, vessel should be pulled out safely more than a beam distance before engines are used to gain headway.

  3. Using fail proof clearance monitoring methods like visual transits, leading lights or use VRM on RADAR etc. rather relying on estimations or clearance being reported by ships fwd/Aft officers.

  4. To keep speed below 6 - 6.5 kts while making fast or casting off tugs, to reduce effect of interaction on tug and prevent any incident with tug. Even Tug can have sudden failure while making fast. Someone may slack excess rope into water, risking the fouling of tugs propeller.

  5. Approaching berth with a controlled lateral speed and if you need to reduce lateral speed than start pulling “Slow” with tugs at little far off rather than waiting for last moment and asking tugs to pull full. If tug line parts in such situation, there is very little that can be done at that moment if lateral speed is too high.

I completely agree points 1 and 2 may not be possible to implement at ports with strong tides.

While most of the contingencies should be included in ports SOP on Pilotage. But Pilotage being of very dynamic nature, not all scenarios may be included in SOP. So it is left onto individual Pilots to incorporate in their day to day practices.

Above are few examples, what are your thoughts?

If you have few more similar Idea or practices at your port, I would be very keen to hear from you.

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