Posted on | May 4, 2013 | 1 Comment
The latest Marine Bill has made its passage through the UK Parliament and now awaits the Royal signature.
A bit of a curate’s egg, but a real storm of controversy has been created over what might be described as the “liberalisation” of Pilotage Exemption Certificates, which can be granted by Competent Harbour Authorities to the senior officers of regular traders.
These are named officers on named ships and have never been transferable, and will generally be granted only after an officer has amassed sufficient experience and can demonstrate knowledge of the waters.
This however has been insufficiently flexible for some owners who have lobbying furiously to have officers other than the master and mate permitted to hold PECs. It was owners of dredgers apparently, who found that their senior officers were getting tired and “out of hours” on the dredging grounds and wanted a third hand equipped with a PEC to take the ship in and out of port if necessary.
Ferry folk then got into the act, indeed rather anticipating it, as it was revealed that a ship involved in a collision was being conned by a sort of “mobile” PEC holder who wasn’t actually a member of the ferry’s crew.
Flexibility is fine, but pilots’ organisations have argued that the whole purpose of restricting the PEC to a ship’s two senior officers was for a good safety reason, and virtually extending this license to anyone aboard would diminish safety, at a time when the ship was at its most vulnerable.
PECs have been controversial in the past, with some masters on highly intensive runs and who would have loved to have a pilot to mitigate their exhaustion, forced to obtain the qualification and possibly not even paid anything for the savings on the pilotage dues.
The UK government, which professes to be hugely exercised about marine safety, has remained oblivious to the pilot’s objections.
It has been pointed out that the term “Competent” juxtaposed with “Harbour Authority” has never been defined and while some ports will be highly responsible and safety oriented, others will bow down to user’s pressure to grant PECs willy-nilly, perhaps not to the ship’s cat, but without real discrimination.