Take 10: Focus on Pilots

01 Feb 2022 The Navigator

Please look after your Pilot! These top ten tips will help make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible

1 Compliant boarding arrangements

First impressions count! This is particularly so for embarkation arrangements, whether that is the pilot ladder, gangway, accommodation ladder or a helicopter deck. A competent person should be at the boarding platform and observing from the bridge wing for cutter transfers. 

2 Situational Awareness

Make sure that you know your passage plan. You should have read the sailing directions and any procedures that have been sent to you. Start listening to VTS or Port Control communications early so that you know what to expect. 

3 Pilot card

The pilot card should always be prepared with the correct information including drafts, any defects, and the gyro error. 


Ensure that all Electronic Navigation Charts (ENC) updates have been applied, and both your ECDIS and radar settings are adjusted for pilotage. Many port authorities will provide pilotage passage plans by email. If they don’t, you can check the pilotage or port authority website.

5 Know your own ship

You should know the type and power of your propulsion, thrusters and rudder type. If you will be using tugs, know the safe working load (SWL) for the tug bitts. A diagram of the bitt locations with SWL can be helpful. If there are deficiencies or limitations it’s better to let the Pilot know straight away.

6 Master Pilot Information Exchange (MPX)

The MPX is the most important component of a safe pilotage. This is an opportunity to build a shared mental model of the planned pilotage. Ideally all of the bridge team should be able to hear the MPX, providing a safe lookout can be maintained. 

7 Teamwork

Ask questions, monitor the helm orders, use closed loop communication, and monitor the execution of the plan. At every stage, consider if something were to happen to the Master or Pilot, could you put the ship in a safe position? You might not understand all aspects of the operation, but a good Captain or Pilot will guide you if you ask relevant questions. 

8 Noise

Noise can affect your focus and contribute to mistakes with helm and engine orders. Acknowledge alarms in a timely manner, avoid raised voices and keep radio volumes to a minimum safe level. Try to avoid distracting conversations on the bridge 


Clean windows

Dirty windows are a distraction and unsafe. At night, with the backscatter of lights, they can hinder your ability to see clearly. 

10 Bridge wing

Remove or clearly identify anything that would become a trip hazard in the dark, both on the bridge and the bridge wing.