Seaways - February 2023

01 Feb 2023 Institute News

It seems to me that 2023 is getting of to a difficult start in parts of our industry and it is important we work together to address matters of key concern.

Captain John Lloyd FNI Chief Executive

In search of a just and fair environment

Sending our people ‘safe home’ is our number one priority and so it is with great sadness that we acknowledge the sad passing of the Humber pilot Francisco Galia in the conduct of his work in January.

Harbour pilots are leading maritime professionals responsible for guiding ships into and out of port. We recognise their professional standing and the commitment they make in supporting maritime operations on a global scale. For many years we have shone a spotlight on the importance of safe boarding arrangements for pilots and this incident highlights the dangers of the role and the importance of providing fully-compliant ladders.

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Pilot Galia.

The importance of supporting pilots in their conduct of the navigation of vessels has been highlighted in the recent reports on the grounding of the Ever Forward in Chesapeake Bay. Major incidents such as these never have a single cause and the report is well worth reading in detail so we can all learn from the lessons of the investigation and analysis.

The incident highlights the importance of monitoring the passage of the vessel at all stages of the pilotage. This is clearly the responsibility of the officer of the watch who must also be taught how to make interventions courteously, professionally and effectively at any time the plan is deviated from. This is a key component of effective Bridge Resource Management. We will be exploring in more detail the best practice of Bridge Resource Management in a new publication from The Nautical Institute due for release later this year.

The report also highlights how easily it is to become distracted by external communications and failing to use technology properly. It is really important we embrace developing decision support systems, but we must underpin their use with great training and high levels of concentration and competence.

Such reports can help us learn for the future. Doing so does not mean that we need someone to blame or a scapegoat for the circumstances. We seek a just and fair environment, with accountability and responsibility – but not unreasonable blame.

And it is a just and fair environment we are seeking for those seafarers held in captivity for circumstances that are not within their control. Seafarers are not typically involved in the management or ownership of the vessels they work on and should not be held criminally liable for issues that are beyond their control.

Criminalising seafarers is clearly a form of scapegoating. It shifts blame for maritime incidents and accidents away from those who are actually responsible (eg ship owners, operators, or regulators) and onto the seafarers, who are often the least able to defend themselves.

Unjust criminalisation impacts the whole of the maritime community. It damages the reputation of our industry, making it harder to attract the best talent available to work on ships. It damages the livelihood of the individuals detained and brings misery to their families and loved ones. While we continue to fight against this trend at all levels, we also recognise that for the individual, knowledge and understanding of the issues is a first step to defence. It cannot solve the issues – that must be done at a higher level – but it can at least help those who find themselves dealing with these circumstances know what to do. For this reason, the latest short course available from The Nautical Institute, ‘Criminalisation of the Mariner,’ seeks to outline the major issues and give those at sea and at shore the tools to manage them. At the same time, we continue to press nationally and internationally for a resolution to these issues.

I hope we will see real developments in the area of respecting seafarers this year. That we will grow our recognition of them as truly global key workers worthy of our admiration and respect.

"Sending our people ‘safe home’ is our number one priority."