In this article he gives us his vision of the maritime pilotage profession of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
1. Maneuvring, security, prevention
The pilot's primary task is to guide the captain in the confined waters of ports, bays, rivers, and canals. The pilot has the additional task of reporting any anomaly present on board that represents a danger to navigation, port facilities or the environment to the competent authority. Within the past two decades, the pilot has also become an important factor in preventing the risk of terrorism by his unique position of being the first to board ships entering territorial waters.
Through their daily experience over many years of practice, maritime pilots develop specific qualities and techniques for maneuvering ships in narrow waters and in restricted areas containing a multitude of precarious port infrastructures and facilities. They serve ships night and day, regardless of weather conditions, thus avoiding delays and ensuring smooth traffic flow, all in the economic interest of the port and the ships. Pilots therefore directly impact and enhance the port's competitiveness.
In addition to their regular tasks, pilots are also involved in port development councils, in local chambers of commerce and industry or in associations bringing together maritime stakeholders where the pilot’s on-site experience is considered invaluable.
Bridge Resource Management (BRM) is the transposition of Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) from the airline to the maritime sector. It was inspired by the 1969 study of teamwork on board aircraft cockpits by David Beaty that proved to be essential in risk reduction and for the safe application of dangerous time-critical decisions. This had a decisive impact on the way maritime pilots approach port maneuvers. Indeed, if the initial pilot training focused on the upper hand that the pilot should gain over the captain of the ship so that the latter does not compromise the maneuver plan, today operative is the bridge team. It is co-organized with the help of the pilot on the basis of assertiveness research and the sharing of a preliminary common model for the ship's maneuver plan.
The work initiated by the French captain and professor Jean-Pierre Clostermann and by the Australian Ravi Nijjer of the Marine Consultancy Group completely changed the way bridge teams operate today. To this were added the tools of the digital revolution: it is now common for the pilot to present his maneuver plan to the entire bridge team on an iPad screen, specifying the target speeds at waypoints, showing the “abort-points” on the electronic chart and detailing the contingency-plans. Thus, any deviation from the initial maneuver plan can be pointed out by any member of the bridge team, whereas previously it was inconceivable that anyone would speak during the maneuver, except the pilot and the captain of the ship. In addition, this mode of verbal exchange is transcended by closed-loop communication and a system of thinking aloud. Finally, the pilot and the captain must challenge each other in order to ensure that these two protagonists maintain
a high level of situation-awareness allowing them to manage the inherent dynamic risk in marine pilotage.
In conclusion, the combination of the emergence of the BRM and the digital revolution has profoundly changed the way in which pilots, but also bridge teams, approach port maneuvers.
Maritime transport is the backbone of the global economy with more than 90% of world trade being seaborne. It is also the cleanest and most efficient transport method, for equal weight and distance. For these reasons, global sea trade has enjoyed a 4% yearly growth since the 1990s overcoming significant challenges throughout the past decades. Today, the maritime sector must continue to support technical innovation in ship design, promote the adoption of green technologies, enable smart shipping and assure safe ship handling by capitalizing on big data and artificial intelligence.
Until now, maritime pilots have made every effort to adapt to the digital revolution and to an eco-efficient economy to ensure competitiveness, energy security and a safe environment. What will the pilot’s role be tomorrow in the age of artificial intelligence applications, machine learning and autonomous ships? With the proliferation of sensors on board ships, shore-based piloting solutions will become more prominent. Technology data will only help to remove human error but cannot fully replace the wide-ranging set of skills that only a pilot can provide to this sensitive sector. If there is going to be only one human operator left during the docking of an autonomous vessel, then it will surely be the marine pilot.