Opinion

New article by The Standard Club: "Remote pilotage - perspective and risks to consider"


by Marine-Pilots.com - published on 8 June 2020 448 -

Article and picture by The Standard Club - Published on 5th June 2020 on their website

Author:
John Dolan
Deputy Director of Loss Prevention
john.dolan@ctplc.com
+44 20 7522 7531

Author Capt. John Dolan says: "We would not recommend remote pilotage when the ship is berthing or unberthing. These operations require the presence and advice of an experienced pilot who has extensive local knowledge and who is usually assisted by port tugs."

The shipping industry has always been characterised by uncertain and volatile markets, stricter regulations and rapid evolution of technology.
However, these conditions are fluctuating more aggressively in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing unprecedented impacts on the movement of cargoes, domestically and internationally, as the world adjusts to the new ‘normal’ of port delays, restrictions on ship movements and, in some cases, the reduced availability of support personnel to assist the vessels’ movements.

In this article, Captain John Dolan, Deputy Director of Loss Prevention, acknowledges the risk factors that should be carefully considered before the practise of remote pilotage is undertaken, and shares club concerns and recommendations.
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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LV
Louis Vest Houston Pilots, USA
on 12 June 2020, 05:58 UTC

Little by little we are developing the technology to do this. Probably within the next few decades a pilot could get a call at home, make some coffee and step into a specially equipped room that has a 5G or better internet connection and several panoramic screens like a small ship simulator. Appearing on those screens will be video input from the ship which will arrive along with radar, ais, ECDIS, gyro, DGPS, rpm and other data. A headset will allow him/her to talk to the captain using a remote microphone to talk to VTS and other traffic over VHF as necessary. The only real difference from being actually on board the ship will be looking at a bank of video screens instead of a bank of windows. That is not an insurmountable difficulty. Pilots already navigate in shut out visibility using only their radar and DGPS displays. At night or in reduced visibility the bank of screens could even show a photographic quality computer image of the channel generated using the ships exact position and heading. Microsoft Flight Simulator has been showing detailed images of real cities and landscapes since the 1980s. In Houston pilotage when turning a large car carrier or container ship in a tight basin it was actually easier to turn the ship using the God's eye view on my laptop (while constantly confirming distances with the tugs and mates) rather than try to guess where the bow and stern were.

We took the first steps down this road when we required Bluetooth transmission from the ship's AIS to the pilot's carry-on laptop. Radar and other data should join the service available to the pilot's onboard laptop and eventually to a remote computer.

All that will get you damn close to the dock, but at this point I'd want to be out on the bridge wing with the wind in my hair for the last bit of docking. I was never comfortable even docking in an enclosed bridge wing. I suppose with enough practice I could dock with a computer. It would take some sophisticated gear to measure distance off and closing rate but that equipment already exists too.

I can't see any substitution for an apprenticeship that is served on board ships. Learn there first then graduate in baby steps with intermediate qualifications to full remote pilot certification.

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