Strangler In The Fridge Preview

March 31, 2008

…Oops, that should have been Stranger On The Bridge, “Strangler In The Fridge” was a sort of code during production. If you want to know what we get up to when not working on Maritime Accident Casebook check out the trailer etc. for Stranger On The Bridge here.

There is a bit of form filling before you get to the link.

Article of note: Joe O’Keefe – Criminalizing the Cosco Busan Incident

March 29, 2008

Joe O’Keefe of Maritime Executive magazine reviews the impact of criminal charges recently laid against the pilot of the Cosco Busan.  It could be the end of an era that has long passed it’s use by date.

Says Joe:

“I don’t know who made the decision to move the Cosco Busan (or why) on that fateful day. Perhaps we’ll never know. What I do know is that last week’s announcement by the Department of Justice changes the rules of the game forever. And, the Coast Guard is very soon going to have to change the answer to a certain multiple choice question on the Rules of the Road Exam, which asks, “What is the role of the pilot on the bridge of a large cargo vessel?” Hint: the answer is no longer “c.”  ”

Read it here. 

Pilot/VTS assisted Collision – Too Many Gentlemen On The Bridge

January 29, 2008

The UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch has released its full report on the collision between the Audacity and the Leonis in the approaches to the River Humber in April 2007. There was a pilot aboard the Audacity and there was a VTS in operation.  It’s well worth a read.

Among the observations were: ” Effectively, no-one held the con on the bridge of Audacity because both the master and pilot had deferred to the other, there was no discussion or questioning of the intentions of Leonis, and at a critical time they involved themselves with tasks that were inappropriate given the impending close quarters situation.”

Polite deference may be a virtue, but not necessarily in bad visibility.

Also worrying is: “The bridge on Audacity was insufficiently manned in the circumstances and conditions. It did not comply with company requirements or HES instructions to pilots, however no additional resources were requested by the pilot.”

VTS operators made similar errors to the ones made by ships bridge teams that consistently appear in reports on incidents involving vessels with a pilot aboard: “VTS operators did not consider they were able to give advice and guidance to vessels with pilots on board. It was considered that the pilot would know what he was doing and that the operator did not need to be further involved once a pilot was on board.”

Pilots are, indeed, highly trained and extremely knowledgeable but not infallible.

As the American P&I Club video, Stranger On The Bridge advises, “Be more alert, not less, when there is a pilot aboard”.

Auntie On Pilots

January 9, 2008

I mentioned Libby Purves’s Radio 4 programme on pilots previously. It’s now online and John Candillon-Baker of Pilot Mag emailed the link here. Check it out.

Article/Program Of Note: The Ship Whispers

January 5, 2008

John Candillon-Baker of Pilot Mag tells us: ”
I thought that your readers may be interested in an article in the UK Times newspaper very well written by British journalist Libby Purves. The article can be viewed at the following link

I, along with another London pilot, was interviewed by Libby for a programme about pilots to be broadcast on Monday 7th at 1100 on BBC Radio 4. I will post the link to that programme once it is (hopefully) posted on their website in the “listen again” section.”

It’s certainly one worth looking at, here’s a taste:

“Britain’s narrow seas and sluicing tides have always challenged ships; never more than today, as the vessels grow more unwieldy. Yet the pilots who safely bring them in and out go largely unsung. The grounding of the outbound container ship Cortesia yesterday, mere hours after dropping her Thames pilot, brought home yet again the skills and dangers. For me, it added an edge to a journey through the pilots’ world that I began, many months ago, for Radio 4….”

Boxer Bangs The Bridge

December 21, 2007

After US Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation that would pass authority from the ship’s master to VTS operators in US waters, MAC left a message at her website asking whether the legislation provided a waiver against responsibility for any damages that might result should following VTS orders result in a pollution incident.

The following is her reply, and my response: wrote:

Dear Mr. Couttie:

Thank you for writing to me in support of the State of California ‘s petition for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles. I appreciate hearing from you, and I share your dismay that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied California ‘s petition.

As you may know, in 2002 California passed landmark legislation to set aggressive greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles, and in 2005 the State wrote rules to implement that law by setting standards to greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent by 2016. As provided for under Clean Air Act section 209(b), California asked EPA for a waiver approving the standards.

EPA has unconscionably denied California ‘s waiver application, despite a clear ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that EPA already has all the authority it needs to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles now.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson based his denial on the premise that in passing an Energy Bill containing increased fuel economy standards, Congress had somehow preempted any state’s efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. Hiding behind this legislation as an excuse flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s findings and the Energy Bill itself.

Again, thank you for writing to me – and for supporting California ‘s efforts to lead the way in the fight against global warming. Be assured that I will do anything in my power to overturn this decision and protect our state’s right to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Please visit my website at

Dear Senator,
My query was regarding the liability of VTS Operators vs ships masters should your bill become law.

I wrote nothing in support, or otherwise of your petition for a waiver regarding vehicular pollution in California.

Thanks you for your response which adequately demonstrates your knowledge of maritime pilotage issues.

Bob Couttie
Maritime Accident Casebook

Article Of Note: Perfect Visibility: Marine Pilots Receive Renewed Scrutiny

December 14, 2007

Joe Keefe of the Maritime Executive Newsletter make a number of cogent points about marine pilots in the post-Cosco Busan world:

“At this early stage, just one thing is perfectly clear: the Cosco Busan allision will ultimately help to redefine the role of, and the liabilities facing marine pilots in the United States today. One of the most primary questions asked of any deck cadet at any maritime academy is: What is the role of the pilot? And, the answer, of course, is (c.), “the pilot provides guidance to, but is not in charge of the vessel.” That tenet has been upheld in many venues, for many, many years. In reality, however, the typical marine pilot who guides a vessel in from the sea buoy to the dock is in complete control of that vessel on the inbound leg. He or she better be, because often the captain of a particular vessel may have never transited that restricted waterway.

One of the key issues being brought to the forefront in the San Francisco case is whether the pilot should have taken the vessel in, given the conditions on board the vessel and the prevailing weather at the time. I did receive a note this week from one U.S.-based state pilot who told me in no uncertain terms, “If we waited for the fog to lift, we would never move and the shippers would be suing us for delaying their goods! The shippers want it both ways. When we take chances and keep moving their ships under less than ideal conditions, they don’t thank us. When we make an error or worse, something happens beyond our control, they are all over us. There is a fine line between safety and a risk.” ”

In particular he asks: “knee-jerk, band aid-type solutions such as the one proposed this week by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) aren’t going to solve anything. Her ridiculous bill — put forth without any idea of how the system actually works — would ensure that the Coast Guard has the authority to order ships to change speed or course in an emergency or during hazardous conditions. At this point — and despite this isolated situation in San Francisco Bay — I’ll put my faith in the pilot. And, I wonder who will be sitting behind the monitor of that RADAR screen at the VTS building. What qualifications will that individual bring to the risk equation and, perhaps more importantly, what will his or her liability be?”

What the Boxer-Pelosi doesn’t address, of course, are the training issues and the competence assurance of VTS operators and pilots.

Read Joe’s commentary here.