Sunday, December 2, 2007


After the ship's officer brings the pilot to the bridge, there are several items that should be covered before the ship's conn is turned over for the passage up the channel. The first should not be to have the pilot write his name; there are more important things, such as shaping up for the channel and meeting other traffic, to be taken care of!
Several pilots were gathered around the table at the pilot station, waiting for the arrival of their ships so that they could begin their night's work. Coffee was passed.
"Got myself a Japanese containership tonight, which should make for a pleasant night's work. They will be as efficient as hell, make their ETA, and have a hot cup of coffee waiting for me when I get up to the bridge."
"Yeah, and can't think of anything I'd like more after boarding on a cold night like this."
The junior member of the group was to go aboard a German refrig­erated ship. He joked that the first thing the captain would say was, "Where have you been pilot? We have been waiting for ten minutes, and we do not like being delayed like this."
This observation has been made by a thousand pilots, on a thousand nights such as this, and always raised a laugh.
"I have an American ship, light draft, and a long way to the bridge.
After going up 30 feet of icy ladder, and climbing six decks, I'll be panting like a race horse."
"Yeah, and the first thing you'll be handed won't be coffee!"
"That's for sure. They'll stick the damn bell book in my hand and want me to write my name!"
This is a scene common to pilots from all over the world. Before a pilot can get a U.S.-flag ship headed fair, or even catch his breath, he is asked for his name. No coffee, no sandwich, no "May I take your coat, pilot?" Professionalism calls for something better than this. Keep it in mind the next time you welcome a pilot aboard your vessel let the man catch his breath, get the ship steadied up on course, hand him a cup of coffee, and then ask for his name.

The pilot will need information from the master. While IMO regula­tions now require a card to be posted in the wheelhouse showing some of the ship's particulars and maneuvering characteristics, this card is not much good on a dark night on a ship that is underway. The same informa­tion will be much more useful if it is also contained on a small pocket­size card that the pilot can look at with a flashlight while starting up the channel. There is other information of more use than that found on the maneuvering card which should be supplied by the master. Is the engine in proper operating condition? Does it respond quickly? Does the ship have any steering peculiarities? Can she maneuver on heavy oil, or must you change to diesel prior to reducing to maneuvering speeds? Will there be any problem letting go the anchor if it is required, or in making up a tug, due to deck cargo or the ship's construction? This and many other items must be exchanged as it is obviously to the mas­ter's advantage that there be no surprises for the pilot at a later time in the passage. The additional information required will vary from ship to ship, and voyage to voyage. It is here that the professional knowledge of the master alone can serve, and he must give some thought before arrival at the pilot station to making up his own list of pertinent infor­mation, to supplement the posted information required by regulation.