Opinion

UK Marine Pilot’s Perspective of Seafarer’s Challenges.


by Ivana-Maria Carrioni-Burnett - published on 24 August 2020 458 -

Article first published by Human Rights at Sea (https://www.humanrightsatsea.org). All statements and opinions are from the author.

Port of London Authority marine Pilot, Ms. Ivana Carrioni-Burnett, provides a personal opinion and insight into her recent experiences in UK waters as a newly qualified Pilot in relation to her interactions with seafarers away from their families, including during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I was safe on that ship: the crew had all been onboard for nine months and have to stay on for at least another three.”

So said a fellow pilot who had clambered down the rope ladder and joined me in the cutter as we returned to shore and thoughts of our beds and homes.

Twelve months onboard.

Imagine that for a moment. Twelve months of your small cabin, pictures of your family stuck to the bulkhead by your bed. Twelve months eating from the same galley and in the same shared recreation space. Twelve months of the same faces and personalities you have to rub along with. Short shuttles between the deck, the bridge, the engine room and back to the recreation space. Twelve months of rolling ocean, expansive horizons and ports you cannot step foot in. London! Home of Her Majesty the Queen; bright red buses; fish and chips! No, just stacks of assorted containers, a muddy brown river and a rarity: a female pilot.

I have been a pilot for just over a year, first as a trainee, a tripper, as we are known when we shadow a qualified pilot. This was on the back of over 11 years of service in the Royal Navy. Instead of foreign ports I have just one to contend with: London and the mighty River Thames. Instead of one crew, one ship-borne family, one trusty ship, I meet many.

Key to being a pilot is integrating quickly and efficiently with the bridge team and the captain. This is normally quite easy as we all have the same aim of getting the ship safely from A to B. A warm smile plus a firm and friendly handshake usually does the trick. Not so at the moment. Handshakes are dangerous. I opt for a sweeping wave and start to take charge.

My mentor once advised me, should communication become strained on the bridge, to ask the crew about when they are next due home. A subtle de-escalation tactic that can be particularly useful after a heated debate about a poorly-rigged pilot ladder. Not so at the moment. The COVID-19 crisis has caused shipping companies to reassess their HR policies resulting in most crew changes being suspended and contracts extended; others are stranded at home, with no work, and no means of supporting their families.

“But, these are unprecedented circumstances,” I hear you say. “This doesn’t usually happen.” This is incorrect.

Just last night, I spoke with a master whose last contract was extended because his company could not find a replacement. His three month contract became nearly six. He decided he would not be put in such a position again. Yet, the call came and he answered. It was just a three month contract. He had assurances. Then COVID19 arrived. The ship was in his home port, his family not so far away. But the shipping company had found no-one to replace him and now… and now nobody knows when he will be with his family again.

Extending a contract is not uncommon; it is a regular occurrence; with or without the individual’s consent. COVID19 is just another excuse. Those whose contracts are extended are the lucky ones. Some are stranded onboard, working without pay. Some are stranded in the country their contract ended in, with no way to get home.

When on passage through the estuary, the captain will sometimes leave me in the capable hands of their chief officer, with a deckhand on standby. They use this opportunity to take a video call from their family. They are on-hand if I need them; I do not interrupt these precious moments. I can overhear the frantic questioning of a worried wife or the smiling singing of children happy to see their daddy and showing off their latest creative drawings.

The latest technology means that most individuals can contact home, although usually at their own expense and only when just offshore. It is not the same as being physically present in their lives. Now, more than ever, seafarers know exactly what is going on at home: the last time the heating broke, the latest unpaid bill, which child has started coughing. They are still helpless to do anything, sat alone in their cabin with their fears and worries and doubts.

The UK has been the first country to designate seafarers as “key workers”. Why? Because 95% of our imports and exports arrive and leave by sea. Seafarers are key to the UK’s economy. All seafarers, of all nationalities, importing and exporting goods to and from all countries across the globe.

Only once all states recognise and start to appreciate the economic value of all seafarers will they start to take action.

It is easy to recognise a lonely crew member, they often talk a lot, even if communication across the language gap is difficult, they want to make that connection. These are the ones who haven’t given up. The quiet ones day-dreaming into the inky blackness with blank, sullen faces; those are the ones I worry about, those are the ones I try and connect with.

These individuals are more than just an economic asset. They are fathers, husbands, sons; mothers, wives and daughters. They have rights too.”

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...

Opinion Empty Ships, Empty Seas

by Ivana-Maria Carrioni-Burnett - published on 21 September 2020

“The current plight many seafarers are facing, unable to crew change or return home, is being described by many voices within the maritime community as the next humanitarian crisis.”

0

Opinion Crew Voices: Fearful, Frustrated, Fatigued, Forgotten.

by Ivana-Maria Carrioni-Burnett - published on 2 September 2020

These are the feelings which have been voiced by the crews I have been in contact with during pilotage operations these last few weeks.

We have heard this said about many keyworkers in the UK over the last couple of months. First it was the NHS, then care workers and social workers, then bus drivers, train operators, lorry drivers and the supermarkets.

0

Opinion Heroes or Hostages?

by Ivana-Maria Carrioni-Burnett - published on 1 October 2020

“Definitions": ‘Hero’: person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities OR person greatly admired for their exceptional qualities or achievements

‘Hostage’: person seized or held for the fulfilment of a condition OR person who is illegally held prisoner until certain demands are met by others

0

Video 14 Days Timelapse of U.S. East Coast in 10 Minutes, across New York, Charleston, Savannah

published on 21 January 2020

One of my favorite time-lapse videos. Awesome pictures and also great music. What a masterpiece! Thank you Jeffrey! Video by jeffrey@hkon YouTube Follow my life at sea on Instagram @jeffrey.hk www.instagram.com/jeffrey.hk

0

Article A journey back in time: films of pilotage from 1940 to 1975 (USA, UK and Germany)

by Frank Diegel - published on 18 May 2020

Let us start a journey back in time. Back to the black and white films of history. The times have changed, but it is good to know what kind of things have changed and where are the roots of pilotage.

0

Video KM Cakra Kembar Satu | Sandar | Pelabuhan tanjung emas

published on 17 April 2020

Teman2 berikut video referensi proses sandar di pelabuhan tanjung emas semarang, setiap pelaut/pandu punya trik tersendiri saat melakukan olah gerak kapal, jadi teman2 bisa menjadikan video ini referensi untuk olah gerak kapal, kritik dan saran2 yang membangun saya tunggu di komentar ya teman2...

0

Video Marine Pilot at work in the port of Hamburg

published on 17 April 2020

How do marine pilots work? Example: Bringing a bulkcarrier alongside to „Hansaport“ in Hamburg. Here the tugboats „Prompt“, „Resolute“ and „Bulldog“ are involved. The master has to rely on the pilot. One reason is, that he can‘t know how to deal with these tugs. A maneuver like this is only safe, when the pilot has a lot of practical experience. A master who is doing a maneuver like this only about once or twice a month and each time with tugs he doesn’t know in areas he hasn’t been to...

0

Video The Hair-Raising Career of a Chesapeake Bay Pilot

published on 15 September 2020

Chesapeake Bay pilots guide massive cargo ships safely through the Bay's channels every day, but boarding them on a ladder attached to a moving ship is nothing short of breathtaking. Watch the video from a retired Bay Pilot.

0

Video Pilot 17 WP

by Baltic Workboats AS - published on 27 February 2020

17 m wavepiercing pilot boat

0