Article

Maryland bans cellphone use by maritime pilots


published on 9 January 2023 221 -

Picture / Screenshot from YouTube

After a distracted pilot grounded the cargo ship Ever Forward in the Chesapeake Bay last March, the Maryland Pilotage Board passed a rule change prohibiting pilots from using their phones while on duty.

"The job of a state-licensed pilot requires absolute attention and focus on the job of safety piloting, navigating maneuvering, anchoring docking or undocking a vessel," board chairman Sandy Steeves told local media in a statement.

Maryland banned texting and driving in 2013, but it had still been technically legal to "text and pilot" merchant ships while in state waters. Last year, one pilot's ill-timed decision to use a phone put the containership Ever Forward aground on an oyster bank, where the vessel stayed for a month as salvors worked to free her.
The Association of Maryland Pilots and the Maryland Board of Pilots did not have cell phone policies at the time of the grounding. The U.S. Coast Guard does not have formal regulations on cell phone use, though it "strongly recommends vessel owners and operators to develop and implement effective operational policies."

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René Hartung Lotsenbrüderschaft NOK II Kiel / Lübeck / Flensburg, Germany
on 9 March 2023, 06:33 UTC

Putting a ban on the use of cellphones during pilotage is a bit to black/white and frankly a shortsighted overkill-reaction. Whereas I completely understand the need to be focussed during the job and not to be distracted at certain parts of the job, I don‘t feel like banning technology that can also help with your job ist a good idea. In my district for example we use cellphones to contact agents, port authorities, our dispatcher and so forth. Not all content is suitable for public VHF communication. Nevertheless the awareness of when and how to use this tool needs to be worked on. Banning phones from pilotage is like banning car navigation devices, because in between all those rides, 1 driver messed up and entered a one way the wrong way.
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