Article

Harbor Pilots, the Boeing 737 MAX and Automation


by Capt. Jim Wright , Southwest Alaska Pilots Association (retired) - published on 5 March 2020 782

Photo by Jim Wright: disembarking Arco Spirit (265K DWT) at the Bligh Reef Pilot Station (Prince William Sound) in good weather

Let's talk about Boeing737 MAX and Automation
The debate is whether highly skilled pilots could have successfully overcome the recent 737 MAX computer deficiencies. Will this question eventually be relevant to harbor pilot skills? You could say that the answer will depend on whether the capabilities of autonomous ships will eventually exceed the skills of their pilots. But now we’re getting into unproductive “apples-to-oranges” comparisons because computerized inputs are automated while pilotage skills are intuitive.

Several marine pilots have submitted articles on automation to the Shiphandling Professionals Group at Linked-In. My impression is that automation dependency is a greater problem in aviation than in the harbor pilotage business. The question is how best to keep it from becoming a problem in our profession. Input from various harbor pilots documenting their experiences and opinions creates a valuable foundation for such a discussion.

In the Air
In aviation, a remedy for “loss of feel” is for pilots to hand-fly the approach and landing. The reported problem is that some pilots, unaccustomed to hand-flying, let the computer do most of the work leaving their skill level absent of improvement.

On the water
For harbor pilots, the corresponding remedy has been to make the approach and docking with minimal usage of thrusters or assist tugs. You could say this is an antidote to the “loss of feel” problem. However, the negative effect of decreasing speed on control can influence earlier usage of tugs and/or thrusters than might be necessary and dilute the value of the remedy.
At the time of my retirement from SW Alaska Pilots some 14 years ago, close-quarters maneuvering was performed mostly in a “hands on” manner. Computer inputs, when available, were used mainly as cross-checks rather than for primary decision making. My impression was that automation in its various forms could decrease my “feel” for what the ship was trying to tell me.

The risk of automation
While different pilotage grounds require different skill sets, ships will tend to send similar signals to their pilots. Being able to interpret those signals and apply proper corrective action in a timely manner is the result of practice and experience. The risk of automation is that it tends to filter out the signals.

About me and the Southwest Alaska Pilots Association
Those of us in my generation of pilots in SW Alaska were fortunate in that SW Alaska Pilots Association was only 3 years old at the time I joined and we were able to build the organization from scratch. We covered an area of thousands of miles of coastline where, with the exception of a few ports, assist tugs were unavailable.


Photo by Jim Wright: Polar Eagle doking at Nikiski

The “Polar Eagle” and “Arco Sag River” photos were typical of the unassisted “anchor dredging” approaches we all “cut our teeth on”. These were the type of situations mentioned in my article where the pilot learned to feel what signals the ship was giving. The Polar Eagle docking might have been a bit wide at the time the photo was taken although by judicious use of the ship’s engine and rudder to work against the anchor, it was possible to “side-slip” across the current for a soft landing close to position. Docking at Drift River with tankers similar to Arco Sag River was trickier because the current ran parallel to the south catwalk (about 20 degrees off the dock heading). The typical procedure involved making a range out of two of the platform pilings then keeping that range constant as the current rotated the ship into the current while bleeding off speed. Somewhere between the bow passing the south dolphin of the catwalk and the south corner of the platform the pilot would order enough port rudder to start the stern swinging up into the current while rotating the ship about 2 – 3 feet off the south fender knuckle. If all went well, the ship would round up on the dock heading using the anchor as a shock absorber to lay the ship alongside the fenders where the friction acted as brake pads to ease the ship into position. When ice was present, as shown in the photo, the game ratcheted up a notch or two. Following this maneuver, a good cup of hot coffee took on a different meaning.


Photo by Jim Wright: Arco Sage at Drift River
Editor's note:
Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.
What's your opinion on this?
Login or register to write comments and join the discussion!
Read more...

Article Norman R. Wright & Sons Build Pilot Boats For PNG Ports Corporation

by Norman R. Wright & Sons - published on 12 March 2020

Queensland and one of Australia’s longest serving custom commercial and recreational boat builders, Norman R. Wright & Sons, has secured the contract to build 2 new custom designed 14.8 metre Pilot Boats for PNG Ports Corporation from Papua New Guinea.

0

Video Training of the Elbe pilots - documentary (in german)

Die Lotsenbrüderschaft Elbe ist ein geschlossener Kreis, der sich nicht gern in die Karten schauen lässt. Wer dort Mitglied werden und bis zu 400 Meter lange Containerpötte in den Hamburger Hafen steuern möchte, muss hohe Anforderungen erfüllen. Bewerber müssen mehrere Jahre lang zur See gefahren sein, um ausreichend Fahrpraxis zu haben. Aber es gibt immer weniger deutsche Seeleute, weil die Reeder billigere Kräfte aus dem Ausland bevorzugen. Dadurch wird es zunehmend schwierig,...

0

Video La station de pilotage des ports de Casablanca et Jorf-Lasf

The pilot station of the ports of Casablanca and Jorf-Lasfar operates in accordance with the 1937 Dahir on the reorganization of the pilot station of the port of Casablanca, which regulates all aspects of the organization and operation of the station, including the recruitment of pilots, as well as the pension and relief fund.
With the advent of Law 15/02 in 2005 on port reform, the station spontaneously adhered to it by creating a commercial company in application of article 13 of the said...

0

Video My First Ride In My Work's Jet Pilot Boat.

A video of a fellow captain at my work giving me my very first ride in the companies jet pilot boat. Im impressed.

0

Opinion The valet parker for ships

by Bianca Reineke - published on 14 November 2020

Review of Capt. Paul Lobo's book "Crossing the bar". The valet parker for ships: More than 30 years of being a Pilot. Book Review by Bianca Reineke, Germany

1

Video MSC Geneva to Predoehlkai6 Hamburg

What a beautiful manoeuvre! Arrival at Hamburg “Eurogate berth 6”, portside!
#maritime-pilots, #hamburg-pilot, #Lotsen, #hamburg, #hamburger-hafen, #MSC, #MSC_Geneva, #Hafen

0

Video How A Pilot Boards A Ship

Watch and learn how a pilot boards a container ship before entering port.
In this video, a container ship bound for Houston, Texas is boarded by a Houston Pilot before entering the Houston Ship Channel.
#maritime #HoustonPilots #houstonshipchannel

0

Video Christening of new pilot tender "Mira"

Christening of new pilot tender "Mira" - a lightweight powerhouse Press Release Hoek van Holland, 2 April 2020 by Next Generation Shipyards On Thursday 2 April, Annebel de Deugd (interim manager fleet management of Nederlands Loodswezen), christened the new Dutch pilots’ tender Mira; one of the lightest tenders in the Nederlands Loodswezen fleet. Lighter than ever The instructions given by Nederlands Loodswezen to ship designer Camarc and shipbuilder Next Generation Shipyards had been clear:...

0

Article Rosmorport’s icebreakers completed over 2,400 pilotage operations

published on 20 January 2021

...in freezing seaports of Russia this season. In total, FSUE "Rosmorport" operates in 15 freezing seaports of the country.

0