How to navigate your way through chaos as a marine Pilot?

published on 9 December 2021 219 -

Text by Steven Detre, Sales Director at Saab Technologies, photo by Saab Technologies

In my most recent article, I talked about how ports are currently faced with disruptive circumstances that severely impact the day-to-day port operations. The COVID-19 situation and blockage of the Suez Canal lead to increased operational uncertainty and a need for ports to endure the situation rather than planning the future. I also demonstrated that tools such as a Port Management Information System can help Assistant Harbour Masters or Vessel Schedulers to manage their work in the best possible way. Ports that do not have the luxury of having such a tool, will suffer from extreme workload, increased costs and dissatisfied customers.

Though if ports are confronted with increased workload and continuous changes in planning, marine Pilots must suffer as well, no? As you might have guessed, this was a rhetorical question. Yes of course, just like port operators, pilot organisations feel the effects of the global crisis the shipping industry is currently in. The big difference here however is that this situation may not only lead to an increased operational cost, but may also have a negative effect on safety, the essence of any marine pilotage organisation. Assigning jobs to pilots without taking into account rest and recuperation times, going on-board without obtaining vital vessel information.... these are all recipes for disaster!

In situations where the pilot dispatcher needs to make operational decisions under heavy commercial pressure, the safety might sometimes be overlooked if you do not possess the correct information. Given the current circumstances, such situation is not unrealistic, on the contrary. Of course, small marine pilotage organisations with only a handful of pilots may have a perfect view on the status of their resources at any given time. However larger pilotage organisations or port authorities responsible for pilotage activities, may find it more difficult to know quickly respond to pilotage requests including launch vessels and pilots. Then we haven't even talked about optimizing activities or delays in billing and invoicing due to the large workload.

For these organisations, Saab has developed PilotControl, Saab's Pilot Dispatch Management System. This tool helps pilot dispatchers with the planning and allocation of their staff and launch vessels. By giving an instantaneous visual overview of the available pilots, their qualifications and their fatigue level, dispatchers no longer need to reference multiple different systems to make a plan that is both solid and safe. Of course the rules for allocation often differ per organisation. Especially with respect to fatigue management, rules may differ, depending on number of days, early starts or night shifts, etc. The system can be configured in a flexible way and even integration with external fatigue algorithms such as FAID (Interdynamics) are possible. PilotControl also helps pilot establishment keep track of individual pilot progress, including observations runs, mentored runs and pilot check runs.

As an extension to the system, PilotControl comes with a native mobile app for the marine pilots themselves, where they are informed about new jobs. Besides the visit details itself, also information regarding ship defects or previous experiences with the crew are available to the pilot in a few gestures. Once having accepted the job, the app automatically generates an alarm the moment the pilot has to get ready to go to the boarding station. And in case there is a delay in the vessel visit, the alarm automatically gets updated. Ideal when a pilot is scheduled for a vessel visit at 5 AM in the morning and the vessel is delayed by 2 hours. You can imagine what 2 hours of additional sleep can bring to a pilot's safety.

The app further allows the registration of boarding and disembarkation and has the possibility to capture the Master's signature as a confirmation of the activities themselves. Defects or important abnormalities detected on the job can also be registered in the app for future reference. When the application is connected to any network, the captured information is immediately transferred to the back-end system where the data is shared. This way, pilots assigned to their vessel (e.g. for the outbound voyage) are sure they have all the necessary information to safely navigate the ship through the port waters. Having the data digitally available in almost real-time removes the need to manually collect and manually enter paper chits, which dramatically improves the overall billing process.

Saab holds the maritime Pilot community in high regards. For this reason Saab had created the safety observation tool: https://www.saab.com/products/Safety-Observation-Tool

This tool which is free of charge and hosted by Saab, allows pilots worldwide to inform each other about dangerous situations onboard ships, among which the state of pilot ladders that are often unsafe. Pilots who register will be able to register safety observations onboard ships and consult observations from other pilots. This way, crucial safety information is shared within the community and does not stay within the local port or pilot organisation where most often nothing is done with the info. I kindly refer to the results of the study made by Ewan Rattray and which was published on www.marine-pilots.com earlier this year which confirms that unsafe observations are often not reported because pilots do not believe their organisation will act on it. I like to stress that the personal data of the pilots who register on this website is used for the purpose of this tool only. In fact, we are asking the pilot community to provide feedback to further improve the tool.

The current crisis in the shipping industry has also affected pilotage organisations causing increased operational costs, and more important puts a pressure on safety. To allow marine pilot organisations to better manage their resources and better assess the impact of their decisions on the safety of their pilots, Saab has developed the PilotControl system. It offers significant financial and safety benefits for pilots, pilot managers and pilot dispatchers.

Want to know more? Please check out our PilotControl webpage and testimonial at Gladstone Marine Pilots.

Looking forward to even more detailed information or in getting a demo of our system, just let me know.

Steven Detré


Steven Detré on LinkedIn

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.
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