THE PILOT AND THE BRIDGE TEAM: AN ESSENTIAL AND COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP. CAPT. SIMON PELLETIER President

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1 THE PILOT AND THE BRIDGE TEAM: AN ESSENTIAL AND COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP CAPT. SIMON PELLETIER President Marine Accident Investigators' International Forum 23 rd Meeting Panama, July 2014

2 I appreciate this opportunity to be with you today and thank you for your invitation. Our organizations have much in common. We are both very much engaged in the discussions that take place at IMO and we both pursue the same fundamental objectives of promoting safe navigation and preventing maritime pollution. And we both put the public interest at the very center of what we do. Being together today to share views on issues of common interest is an excellent opportunity to get to know each other a little better, and to see how we can work together to further these shared objectives. I understand that, at your meeting last year, the relationship between the pilot and the bridge team was discussed and that it is a topic of interest to you. Since, in addition to my duties as IMPA President and as President of the Canadian Marine Pilots Association, I am also an active pilot in the Lower St. Lawrence District and have been for over 18 years now I can tell you that the relation between the pilot and the bridge team is a topic that is also of interest to me, and one that is of great relevance in the context of my daily life as a pilot. Having been involved for more than 32 years already in the navigation of ships, dealing with pilots in my earlier years and with bridge teams in the latter ones, I believe I have a well-rounded perspective on this very unique relationship. I will therefore focus my remarks on this topic, which I will examine, first, from a somewhat abstract perspective, and then from a more pragmatic point of view. 1

3 PILOTS AND THE BRIDGE TEAM Pilots are expected to act, first and foremost, in the public interest and to maintain a professional judgment that is independent of any inclination that is not aligned with the needs of maritime safety. Pilots are not part of the regular complement of a vessel. They are typically licensed by an independent government agency and are dispatched to take all reasonable actions to prevent ships under their navigational direction from engaging in unsafe operations. This independent position provides assurance that safety remains, at all times, paramount. As a result of this particular position, pilots are not part of the bridge team. For their part, bridge teams have to balance considerations that are not only related to safe navigation but also to the commercial concerns and imperatives of shipowners, charterers, agents, ports etc. To some extent, these considerations could influence the assessment made of the risks associated with a particular passage. The safe navigation of a ship obviously involves teamwork. And this is especially true in waters where risks are such that compulsory pilotage is required. Pilots are therefore expected to develop a cooperative working relationship with the master and bridge crew. The same, of course, is also true for the master and the bridge team with the pilot. IMO recognizes this in Resolution A960. It states that: Masters and Bridge Officers have a duty to support the Pilot 2

4 and to ensure that his/her actions are monitored at all times (A960, Annex 2, paragraph 2.3). IMO also formally encourages pilotage authorities to provide pilots with appropriate training on bridge resource management so as to facilitate communication and information exchange with the master and the bridge team and to foster an effective working relationship in both routine and emergency situations (A960, Annex 1, paragraphs 5.3 and 5.5.4). Clearly, this is an approach that pilots support. BRM training is viewed as something that contributes to safety and as a means for enhancing the performance of individuals involved in the navigation of vessels. In addition to IMO-approved BRM training, in order to maximize the effectiveness of bridge resource management in pilotage waters, the BRM training of pilots, called BRM-P, is specifically designed to fully take into account the particular role that pilots play on the bridge of a vessel. In general terms, BRM-P aims at ensuring that pilots use the skills and training that they already possess in ways that maximize the safety performance of all the individuals on the bridge. This training typically seeks to have pilots gain: - an increase in situational awareness skills; - improved abilities to foresee and prevent potential errors before an accident becomes unavoidable; - a greater regard for the importance of communication and an understanding of the common barriers to effective communication; and, 3

5 - a more developed concept of teamwork and leadership in the navigation of a ship. Licensing authorities now typically require completion of a BRM course for pilots as a prerequisite for issuing an initial pilot license. Completion of a refresher course at least once every five years is also usually required. So, it is fair to say that virtually all pilots have now had BRM training and/or BRM-P that specifically takes into account their own particular responsibilities and position on the bridge team of a piloted vessel. BRM AND CASUALTY INVESTIGATION In spite of what I just described, I note that accident reports sometimes identify shortcomings in the initial master/pilot exchange or in bridge team management as contributory, or even causal, factors in marine accidents. Suggesting that there may be systemic deficiencies in terms of how the pilot and the bridge team interact can make attention-grabbing headlines and soundbites. In my view, such statements deserve due attention. But they also need to be approached with caution and warrant further examination. I just said that virtually all pilots have received specific training in bridge resource management. So, if all pilots have had BRM training but inadequate bridge resource management is still a contributing factor to accidents, as is sometimes suggested, what does this mean? 4

6 Is the nature of the training inadequate? While that might be a factor in exceptional cases, I have no reason to think that this would be a particularly significant trend. Are pilots somehow reluctant to put in practice the training that they have received? Again, when you deal with a population of many thousands of individuals, you might find a few who deviate from the norm but, here as well, since being able to count on a dynamic and engaged bridge team actually absolutely serves the interests of pilots, I am not of the view that this is where we need to be looking. So, if it s not the training and its implementation, what might it be? To answer this, there is perhaps no other way but to take a cold, hard look at how things often really happen on board vessels. IN THE REAL WORLD Since an image is worth a thousand words, I can tell you that, ideally, the world would look like this! (Image of NI Model of ideal communications flow) Here, everybody has a clear understanding of his job and actually does it. Everybody monitors the work of others and offers relevant observations. Everybody shares the same mental model of the voyage. Everybody is communicating clearly and expresses any concern without being intimidated. Of course, we must strive to achieve this. 5

7 But in the real world, sometimes things look like this (Picture of a vessel bridge where there is only one, perplexed, crewman). Exceptional, I admit. But it still happens on occasion. On this one, this is the bridge of a large cruise ship under pilotage. In general, things look more like this (Picture of a vessel with one officer and a wheelman) bridge. And, during berthing operations, add the master to the picture. When I leave home at 1:00 in the morning on a cold -25 Celsius winter night to conduct a cape size bulker through fast-moving ice on the St. Lawrence River, in a restricted channel and with virtually no floating aids to navigation; when I am greeted by a crew on deck, including a Master alone on the bridge with the wheelsman, who does not effectively speak English, and who are experiencing their first time in such conditions and are asking me if they may go ashore in Canada because it is their first concern having been forbidden to so at the last two ports they called in a crew that is often hard-pressed and fatigued, the truth is that, despite best efforts to communicate, the sheer reality that I am now facing puts all the principles that we have just discussed in an entirely different light. I am not sure that there is any amount of additional communications training that would actually allow me to overcome the very real constraints that I am then facing in this respect. It s just a fact of life. 6

8 Of course, as we get underway and throughout my assignment, the interaction I have with my bridge team keeps revolving around the central notions of: what is it that I know that they need to know? And what is it that they know that I need to know? I do not expect the officer on watch, however, to know what years of expert training and experience have taught me in respect of navigation on the very specific body of water for which I am licensed as a pilot. So there is an obvious limit in respect of the extent to which he can effectively monitor my work, share the same mental model of the pilotage passage we are performing, even though a proper Master/Pilot exchange has taken place. For my part, I face a similar constraint and, given the circumstances, I do not have the latitude to explain each and every detail of what is unfolding. So, in the real world, the level of support that pilots can get from the masters and bridge teams of the vessels they conduct will often be limited. And we can live with this; it is understandable. But there is one thing on which I count and which, unfortunately, in my experience is waning: true seamanship. The ship has the responsibility of having a passage plan, berth-to-berth. And officers have the responsibility to monitor this. I expect them to have the core competence of being able to do so and of maintaining a safe watch even in pilotage waters. That job must be done! 7

9 Let me give you, however, some candid examples of what I mean. I sometimes witness situations where no routes at all have been laid down on the paper charts or on the ECDIS for the passage to the berth, let alone the comprehensive passage plan that is required by regulation. Or, worse, where one line, where only one single course has been plotted from the pilot station to the berth, a single line of 120 NM long that goes over land, mountains and shoals Or an officer of the watch who is plotting a GPS position on a 4 meter depth area when I am piloting a Panamax size vessel at 13 meters draft, and who does not raise an eyebrow when so doing, who does not have the reflex to recheck its plotted position or to use an alternative positioning method! Obviously, the ship is still doing 13 knots and just by looking out the window there is a set of leading lights confirming that the ship is in the center of the channel not on the track he has plotted. But he never turns to me to either challenge me or inquire whether the ship is in a safe position. Some typical lines sum it all: - What is your gyro error mister mate? I don't know pilot. - Do you have a gyro error log book? Let me check pilot. 2 degrees west, pilot. - When was that? The entry is dated march 2008 pilot! - What is the ship's speed at full maneuvering revolutions? The GPS speed is now 13.34kts pilot. 8

10 - What is the airdraft? I dont know pilot, let me check. - What is the heading marker error on the radars? What is that pilot? - Captain, we need to reduce speed to have better steering in this shallow channel and avoid too much squat. A few minutes later, however, the captain confirms giving more RPM to have more power on the rudder for better steering?? - Mister mate, the ECDIS safety zone alarm has been going off for the last 2 hours. Could you change the setting from 30 meters to 10 meters depth in order for you to to better monitor the ship s progression? Ok pilot, I have to call the captain. Why? He s the only one who is allowed to change the settings of the ECDIS. Does this sound familiar? Remember years ago, when we couldn t touch the radar with some Masters. Some things don t change. We need to find out why! Talking about ECDIS, here is an interesting picture (of an ECDIS with the following warning on it «ECDIS not to be used for navigation, only for training»), it was taken on a 125,000tdw bulker 2 months ago. Have I missed something at IMO?! And now, what assurance do people have that things will be different when e-navigation is finally implemented? 9

11 Cell phones are a plague nowadays. Pilots, OW, Captains, some people just can t turn off the bloody thing! Something has to be done about this! Driving up core competence and professionalism would go a long way to help ensure pilots are effectively supported by bridge teams and can have an optimal interaction with them. Another systemic trend that I observe first-hand and that has a direct impact on the relationship between the pilot and the bridge team is the administrative burden that is now placed on the shoulders of officers. There is not a single pilotage assignment during which I don't see an officer of the watch sitting down at one of the bridge computer desks to do administrative work, sometimes for several minutes, even up to hours. I sometimes think that officers don t have the time to be mariners anymore. Of course, I m saying this tongue in cheek but perhaps the extent to which the mountains of paperwork associated with meeting the requirements of the ISM Code, for example, actually contributes to causing accidents should be scrutinized in greater detail! UNFORTUNATELY, ACCIDENTS SOMETIMES HAPPEN A careful examination of the suggestion that there may be systemic deficiencies in terms of how the pilot and the bridge team interact leads to the conclusion that, in the real world, this is not only a complex question, but also a matter where further progress will not easily be made. 10

12 As we have seen, many factors influence how the pilot and the bridge team interact. For my part, I believe that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, what can be done to make sure that this relationship unfolds as smoothly as possible is actually done. If one incident happens in a pilotage district in which there are, say, 20,000 assignments per year and if, in that particular case, it is found that the interaction between the pilot and the bridge team could have been better, are we actually dealing with systemic deficiency? What is systemic about this situation? Is it not rather the fact that 19,999 assignments unfolded without incident? There is risk in suggesting that there might be systemic deficiency where there is actually systemic effectiveness. Great caution needs to be exercised when making such statements. They can be used by others to move forward agendas that are unrelated to the objectives we both share. While there is obvious value in identifying facts and in doing everything that can reasonably be done to prevent accidents from reoccurring, it is also essential not to appear making value judgements on entire professions based on exceptional occurrences. If a pilot fails to order a change of course as a vessel approaches a curve and the officer on watch does not pick it up even though his berth-to-berth passage plan clearly indicates that a change of course is required maybe it s not a question of training or of systems; maybe it s a case of specific individuals simply not doing the job that they should be doing at the time this is happening. 11

13 An error is made and, without diminishing its importance or the consequences it can have, perhaps that is all there really is to it! Accidents happen to inexperienced persons; but they also happen to those who have a lot of experience. Ultimately, my message is about competence, and about doing everything that can be done to drive up levels of competence. Certainly not drive them down. But, it is also even more about responsibility and doing your job. Taking charge. And fighting complacency at all times. Thank you. 12

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