When it comes to safe navigation,
if you don’t ask a question right
you’re not asking the right question and
you won’t get the right answer.
Read the transcript
When it comes to safe navigation,
if you don’t ask a question right
you’re not asking the right question and
you won’t get the right answer.
The US National Transportation Safety Board today announced it is investigating a contact incident on Monday between the oil tanker Overseas Reymar and one of the supports of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while under pilotage.
The NTSB named Barry Strauch as the investigator-in-charge. Strauch will coordinate with the US Coast Guard, which classified the accident today as a “major marine casualty,” because the incident exceeded the threshold of more than $500,000 in property damage.
The NTSB investigated a similar accident in 2007, when the container ship Cosco Busan hit the Bay Bridge and spilled thousands of gallons of fuel oil into the San Francisco Bay. In the Cosco Busan accident, the NTSB determined that a medically unfit pilot, an ineffective master, and poor communications between the two were the cause of the accident. Investigators will be reviewing the circumstances of yesterday’s accident in light of the safety recommendations made following the Cosco Busan accident.
California’s State Auditor has discovered that the Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun licensed a pilot 28 days before he received a required physical examination; he piloted vessels 18 times during this period. Currently, the pilot who conducted the containership Cosco Busan into the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge alleged under the influence of medication is serving a 10 month term in a prison.
WASHINGTON— Fleet Management Ltd., a Hong Kong-based ship management firm, pleaded guilty today to a criminal violation of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for its role in negligently causing the discharge of more than 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay from the Cosco Busan when the vessel struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge in dense fog on Nov. 7, 2007. Fleet Management also pleaded guilty today to felony obstruction of justice and false statement charges for creating false and forged documents after the crash at the direction of shore-based supervisors with an intent to deceive the U.S. Coast Guard.
Our friends over at Maritime Executive have a well-stuffed mailbag following a thoughtful article by Joe Keefe, “Game Changer: Reflecting Back on the COSCO BUSAN Debacle”, which had MAC mulling over Texas Chicken, Suez pilots and courtesans.
Says MarEx editor Joe Keefe: “ (The article) was, far and away, the most widely opened article in this e-newsletter in more than two years. Not surprisingly, the article also triggered a flood of mail in similar volumes.”
MAC was reminded of a complaint by a pilot about the IDESSIT/American Club produced series of pilotage videos Stranger on the Bridge which strongly recommends that a master monitor the pilot. The complainant said, dismissively “What? is the master supposed to jump on the pilot when he makes a mistake?”
The answer is “Yes, absolutely”. One MarEx correspondent quotes a New Zealand Pilot Card: “‘I am just the pilot & am here in an advisory capacity. Please feel free to bring any error of judgment, helm or engine order, to my notice’”, so MAC, and the great majority of masters he’s spoken with aren’t alone.
In fact, if being conducted by a Pascagoula pilot it is vital to monitor because, under the term of the Pascoula Bar Pilot’s contract with vessels the master and shipowner accept full liability for any damage caused by a pilot’s error, the pilot bears no liability, which of course means he, or she, bears no responsibility.
The essence of responsibility is liability, hence MAC’s reminder of the courtesan’s privilege – influence without responsibility.
Pilot and master do not, therefore share responsibility because they do not share liability.
A letter from another good friend of MAC’s, Pilot Mag editor John Clandillon-Baker says: “In the Zim Mexico III case in 2006, Captain Schroeder was found guilty because ‘the judge also instructed the jury, in essence, that the captain of a vessel, under the applicable Code of Federal Regulations provisions, is responsible for the negligence of all his subordinates on the vessel, including the pilot’. The Cosco Busan case has overturned that and confirmed a growing opinion that a pilot cannot walk away from an incident with immunity if his actions are deemed to have contributed to the incident.”
Newspaper editors and ships’ masters share a common legal oddity. In most jurisdictions a company employee is not personally liable and cannot be sued for the outcome of their decisions. Masters and editors are personally liable for the outcome of their decisions and the decisions made by their subordinates. The essence of the Pascagoula Bar Pilots is that the pilot is not an independent professional but a servant of the company which contracts him for his professional services. As such, he is subservient to the master of the vessel and the master much accept responsibility for the expertise of a pilot whom he may not know in waters he doesn’t know and if anything goes wrong the master pays.
This would appear to conflict with the best practices advice of the American Pilots Association, APA, which states that a pilot is not part of the bridge team because: “State-licensed pilots are expected to act in the public interest and to maintain a
professional judgment that is independent of any desires that do not comport with the needs of maritime safety. In addition, licensing and regulatory authorities, state and federal, require compulsory pilots to take all reasonable actions to prevent ships under their navigational direction from engaging in unsafe operations.”
Therefore, in the APA’s view, a bridge team’s duties conflict with maritime safety. It is also implicit in that statement that the pilot is not a subordinate of the master.
Although the APA states “If the role of the pilot is an unclear issue, it is only because some people want it to be unclear or confused” it does nothing to clarify the issue in its best practices.
APA seems not to understand the concept of a bridge team. Anyone on the bridge participating in, and with the objective of, safe navigation of the vessel is a de facto member of the bridge team because safe navigation is the objective of the bridge team.
Also implicitit the APA best practices is that the pilot only need tell the master what he thinks the master should know, not what the master wants to know. The pilot is not required to tell the master his intentions until and unless he choses to do so.
Repeatedly pilots’ organisation state that a master may dismiss a pilot and ask for another one if a pilot is deemed to be incompetent or incapable of carrying out his duties. In the case of Cosco Busan, and several others, a pilot’s fatigue or the influence of medication, has not been readily apparent. A master also has the right to dismiss a pilot if the vessel is put into a situation of extreme danger. This latter point might have been workable in the age of sail when 5 knots was good speed but given modern speeds by the time a vessel is in danger it’s too late to fire the pilot and, indeed, may make matters worse.
Not a single American pilot organisation has suggested at which point the master of the Cosco Busan should have dismissed John Cota as pilot. When they identify that moment is when they should stick their heads above the parapet, yet they place the blame on the master for the contact, allision, with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
A stroke of common sense comes from a legal analysis forwarded by the chairman of the UK Pilots Association, John Wilson.
To cut to the chase, a pilot is given a special privilege and licence to conduct his profession. With that privilege comes a duty and responsibility to the client and to society as a whole. As a professional, a pilot is liable for the errors he makes.
A pilot is, therefore,in the same position as a doctor. A doctor is only an advisor, the patient can chose to accept or dismiss the doctor’s advice, but if the patient chooses to accept it then the doctor is liable for any negative outcome.
Pilots are given special and exclusive privileges and are well paid for their services, in return they should be held liable for their professional advice in pursuit of those privileges. You expect the same of your dentist and optician.
Then there is the issue of intimidation. What counts as intimidation depends upon culture. One of MAC’s British clients tell the story of a Suez Canal pilot who spent the entire passage telling him that he, the pilot, could cause as much damage as he liked to the vessel or the canal infrastructure, and get away with it – the master and the shipping company would be held to blame in much the same way as in same in Pascagoula.
A MarEx correspondent tells this story: : “I have personally observed an Asian Master, who wouldn’t leave anything to chance with Asian Pilots when in Asian / Middle Eastern Ports, however was reluctant in pointing out the pilot’s minor errors during a river passage in the United States, where two pilots on the wheelhouse were going on chatting endlessly, discussing personal & social issues with an immensely complacent attitude towards the job they actually came for. In fact, most of their helm orders sounded so seamless with their personal conversation, that it was extremely difficult for the helmsman to figure out where the ‘PORT TWENTY’ was concealed between his wife’s shopping & his son’s new boat with the Yamaha outboard! It was indeed surprising to see a Ship’s Master with over 2 decades of command experience under his belt, act in that intimidating manner, putting the safety of his vessel & crew at risk. When asked for a clarification by me after berthing, his explanation was equally shocking! “We must be courteous & extend hospitality
to all Port Officials” was his answer.
The Chinese master of the Cosco Busan behaved in exactly the same way. The pilot,the American professional, gave his professional advice that it was safe to depart the berth at Oakland. The master accepted that advice in the same way a patient would accept the advice “take two asprin and call me in the morning”.
Which gets me to Texas Chicken, sometime called the Texas Two-step on the Houston ship canal. It is a scary procedure for a master and quite fun for the pilot. When two ships are to pass the pilots on each ship aim at each other’s bow and, at apparently the last moment give a starboard 20 order. Pressure from the bows keep the vessels apart but, as the pass go on, another order is given to avoid suction from the stern of the vessels. It’s an impressive manoeuvre. But…
But, as can be found on the internet, pilots tell of occasions when the master has asked ‘did you see that ship?’ and the pilot has mischievously said ‘what ship?’. Should the master now relieve the pilot? And at which point in that manoeuvre, since the pilot did not brief the master adequately, should the master have relieved the pilot?
Pilots need to be taught how to deal with other cultures in a non-intimidating way. If American pilots are going avoid responsibility for their actions then “I am just the pilot & am here in an advisory capacity. Please feel free to bring any error of judgment, helm or engine order, to my notice” should be given verbally and on every pilot’s card. None do so, and, indeed, the San Francisco Bar Pilots card makes it clear that the pilot is in charge.
American pilots should also learn to accept responsibility for their own actions. Until they are liable for those actions, and while they continue to make the master liable for the pilot’s incompetence or inability then no master should trust them.
John Clandillon-Baker, who edits the UK Pilots Magazine sent us this:
Ref your “Foggy Pilot” article your readers may be interested in the editorial ( which deals with some of the issue raised) and the feature on piloting in fog that I did for the April issue of the Pilot which can be read at the following links:
The unprecedented jail sentence of John Cota has set an alarming precedent of criminalising a pilot and this is the topic of my editorial and feature for the July issue which I have just finalised. I usually upload content onto the website a few weeks after the print edition has been received by members so will advise you when I post it.
By now you know that Captain John Cota, who was piloting the Cosco Busan when it hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, has been given a ten-month prison stretch. It might be churlish to note that the sentence is somewhat less than the detention in the US of the vessel’s crew members as ‘material witnesses’, none of whom were charged with any wrong doing, so let’s look at the lessons that might be dragged kicking and screaming out of this unfortunate incident.
Ship helmsman sentenced to 10 months for oil spill
San Jose Mercury News – San Jose,CA,USA
Cota was the pilot of the 901-foot Cosco Busan when it slammed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on the foggy morning of Nov. 7, 2007.
Lifeboat to the aid of nuclear vessel
Campbeltown Courier – Campbeltown,Scotland,UK
CAMPBELTOWN Lifeboat went to the aid of a crewmember on board a nuclear fuel transporter on Saturday morning. The man had been taken ill on board the vessel
Crewman severs fingers in fishing accident
SouthCoastToday.com – New Bedford,MA,USA
The 88-foot fishing vessel Eileen Marie reported the injury to the Coast Guard at 10:46 pm Wednesday, according to a Coast Guard press release.
Fishermen survivors return home to Quang Ngai
Thanh Nien Daily – Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam
Nine fishermen who survived a collision with an unidentified foreign ship in the central province of Quang Ngai on Wednesday returned onshore Thursday
Fear of oil spill
Times of India – India
KARWAR: The accident of MV Shahin on Friday is similar to the accident of ship — Ocean Seria — that took place three years ago, in the same place. .
Coast Guard: Alcohol not a factor in scalloper grounding
SouthCoastToday.com – New Bedford,MA,USA
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard reported that the vessel’s four crewmen, who were rescued without injury, tested negative for alcohol.
Philippines – MFA – Filipino Seafarer Afflicted with CA-MRSA and A …
ISRIA – France
The Consulate General of the Philippines in Hong Kong sadly reports the demise of a 42-year-old Filipino male seafarer from La Union province found to be
Coast Guard warns: Beacon ID mix-up led to wreck of Lady Mary
Press of Atlantic City – Atlantic City,NJ,USA
… partly to determine if another vessel collided with the ill-fated scalloper. The cause of the sinking remains unknown. AP contributed to this story.
JSMEA discloses more fake cases
The Japanese Marine Equipment Association (JSMEA) has revealed further incidents of counterfeit marine products.
The JSMEA said two members of the association, Yanmar and Daihatsu Diesel, had reached out-of-court settlements after filing civil law suits against compatriot marine equipment manufacturers Marinco and Nikki World Trading.
Both companies are alleged to have counterfeited engine parts and marketed them as the products of Yanmar and Daihatsu.
Modern piracy in consulates
la estrella – Panama
Varela said that they are too many irregularities in the consulates and currently he is assembling together with the Panama Maritime Authority a team that
When insects attack at sea – scary…
Phuket Phi Phi Ferry Sinks in Raging Storm
Phuketwan – Phuket,Thailand
… escape when the almost new vessel overturned and sank in a sudden squall off Patong. Investigations into the cause of that sinking are continuing.
Fisherman dies of injuries in crab vessel accident
Daily Astorian – OR, USA
The US Coast Guard evacuated the injured captain of the vessel Swell Rider Friday afternoon after an accident onboard his fishing boat.
Man injured in dockyard crane collapse
Independent – London,England,UK
By Lesley Richardson, Press Association An investigation was under way today after a man was seriously injured when a crane collapsed in a ship dockyard.
Serious oil spill in Geiranger Fjord
Norway Post – Bærum,Norway
… Geiranger Fjord fire fighters and clean-up crews have been trying to gain control of a major oil spill from the Bahamas registered cruise ship “Spirit .
NSRI evacuate chief engineer – fire on ship in Suez Canal
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) helicopter rescue team at Port Elizabeth was scrambled last week to respond to an emergency on board the handysize Odfjell products tanker BOW EAGLE, sailing from Indonesia to Brazil, which reported that the 60-year old chief engineer had suffered a suspected fractured hip in a fall.
Superferry 5 rams Pier Uno
Negros Chronicle – Dumaguete City,Negros Oriental,Philippines
Good thing that the bow thruster of the ship located at its side did not malfunction and maneuvered the ship to recover from the collision.
Ship With Toxic Load Holed
St.Petersburg Times.ru – St. Petersburg,Russia
According to the preliminary investigation into the incident, the vessels share responsibility for causing the collision. Rashid Alimov, head of the St.
Coast Guard responds to grounded vessel in Wrangell Harbor
SitNews – Ketchikan,AK,USA
Wrangell, Alaska – The Coast Guard responded to the 58-foot fishing vessel Siren which grounded with 1000 gallons of diesel fuel on board in Wrangell Harbor
Focus in barge grounding turns to investigation
OregonLive.com – Portland,OR,USA
He also said it’s too early to tell what the consequences would be if it’s determined the vessel was grounded outside the channel.
SF Bay Oil Spill Pilot To Learn Sentence This Week
CBS 5 – San Francisco,CA,USA
… adequately with the ship’s captain and crew. Defense attorneys have asked for the minimum two-month term, saying that Cota “deeply regrets” the accident
Rescue workers lend help in 43 land and sea incidents
GulfNews – Dubai,United Arab Emirates
The maritime accidents included boat collision and boat capsizing, which resulted in the death of three individuals and three injuries within the first half
Somali pirates end monsoon lull with hijacks, attack
Reuters India – Mumbai,India
… and used one to attack an oil tanker in a flurry of activity in the Gulf of Aden ending a monsoon season lull, maritime officials said on Monday.