Master/Pilot Relationship

21 Mar 2012

Master/Pilot Relationship

Hong Kong, China
REPORT No. 97023

Apparent weakness in the master/pilot relationship occurred on my vesselwhilst departing from the harbour. We were anchored with 5 shackles in thewater, the engine on stand by, the bridge team in place, bow thruster ready,chief officer and bosun ready forward when the pilot was received by myselfon the bridge. There was a very strong tide running, it was raining, therewas another vessel close astern of us and own vessel was yawing. I advisedthe pilot that all was in place, he did the necessary reporting and thengave permission to heave the anchor. The last shackle proved difficult toheave in and ultimately the chief officer reported that the anchor was fouledon a heavy and probably very long wire rope.

Such a situation needs the utmost co-operation of the bridge team includingthe pilot, so I immediately advised him of the situation. He just shookhis head as though it was not his business! We managed to proceed slowlyand later managed to cut the fouled wire. During this operation we startedto drift towards another vessel and I asked the pilot to come on to thebridge wing to help control the situation from there. Possibly due to therain and the pilot not having a raincoat, he refused and started to shoutorders to the second mate, over-riding the master who had all the controlson the bridge wing.

The pilot did not advise me about anything, broke off communication andhis attitude was moody. It appeared to me that such actions were endangeringthe safety of the vessel and I was convinced that the situation could onlybe controlled from the bridge wing. I was very concerned by the exceptionallydangerous situation and I needed the Pilot to enhance the bridge team withhis experience and local knowledge.

When I told the pilot that our company policy is compliance with QualityStandards and the ISM Code and the master is ultimately responsible forthe safety of his vessel, he replied, "that is all sh.. whilst we werein pilotage waters".


MARS 97023 was an example of poor relations between the master and the pilot to which the Hong Kong, China Pilots Association (HKPA) responded in MARS 98007. I am pleased to report that the Association has now produced a booklet called PILOTS' INFORMATION TO MASTER which contains information for shipmasters, shipowners and local shipping agents. The booklet is designed by the HKPA to give general hints and information for ships entering Hong Kong, China waters. The objective is to promote safety and efficiency to all ships when navigating, berthing or unberthing in Hong Kong, China Harbour. There are 15 pages of text in English and Chinese, diagrams to show buoy mooring arrangements and a plan showing VHF coverage. The publication of this booklet helps to show the commitment of the HKPA to quality pilotage services and they welcome the participation and support of all users. As such it should assist the exchange of information between the master and the pilot and I sincerely hope that it goes a long way towards improving the relationship of the bridge team with the pilot.

The booklet, in addition to general advice, arrival and departure information, passage information and guidance on buoy mooring and berthing also gives advice to take in the event of a tropical storm or typhoon developing. Comments and suggestions may be faxed to the General Manager of HKPA - Fax:- 852 28030859 or by email:- Further information, such as the timing, draft limitation, tug requirements for berthing or unberthing operations within the port can all be found in the BERTHING GUIDELINES obtainable from Mardep's web site on the Internet. The address for this is (