Ship master and pilot relationship

Legal relationship between master and pilot - MySeaTime

ship master and pilot relationship

The basic rule is that the master is responsible for the navigation of the ship and the pilot is an adviser to the master with limited responsibilities depending. The relationship between Master and Pilot has probably changed less than any other port, and fail of his duty therein, so as the vessel miscarry by reason of. MASTER / PILOT RELATIONSHIP. 2 of 15 with marine insurance (2). The actual causes of casualties and the physical losses of ships and cargoes, and damage.

When our Branch Committee first met earlier this year to discuss the topic for a half-day seminar, we wanted to raise an important topic for our 20th year anniversary. Pilots are expected to take care of the interests of the local port, waterway and infrastructure as well as report on navigational deficiencies noted on board so the traditional role as 'advisor to the Master' is becoming increasingly unclear.

For example, a ship may manoeuvre into a new port every day but the tug masters may not speak English and traffic flow in the port is in the hands of the Vessel Traffic Service VTS - how much control on their port manoeuvres do the Bridge Team really have?

The accidents during harbour manoeuvring may not necessarily be due to faults in the Master-Pilot relationship itself which is but one component of the Pilotage operation.

ship master and pilot relationship

The topic has been the subject of several articles but has yet to be extensively debated in the Nautical Institute forums. Is radical reorganization of Master-Pilot responsibilities possible? While the competency standards of Masters are regulated by IMO STCW, Pilots and Tugs usually operate under national competency requirements and perhaps international 'recommendations', which might not be binding. In some countries, the Pilot is obligated to remove himself from the Bridge after an incident in order not to prejudice possible liability.

These are issues requiring careful consideration. It is noteworthy that there are several ports of the world where fewer accidents occur than in other places.

Pilots are engaged for a variety of reasons depending on circumstances which include pilotage based upon local knowledge, liaison, ship handling and bridge support.

The duty of the pilot is to direct the navigation of the ship and to conduct it so far as the course and speed of the ship is concerned.

Master/Pilot relationship in focus at Nautical Institute seminar

He liaises with the VTS, organises the use of tugs and advises on the use of moorings and towing lines. The position of the pilot on board a vessel is aptly summarised by the Canadian Royal Commission on Pilotage, Ottawaas follows: The first expression refers to action, to a personal service being employed; the second to a power. The question whether a pilot has control of navigation is a question of fact not of law.

ship master and pilot relationship

The fact that a pilot has been given control of the ship for navigational purposes does not mean that the pilot has superseded the master. The master is, and remains, in command; he is the authority on board.


He may, and does, delegate part of this authority to subordinates and to outside assistants whom he employs to navigate his ship - i. A delegation of power is not an abandonment of authority but one way of exercising authority. It has never been easy for the master to question the advice given by the pilot who has the required local knowledge but does not have the ultimate responsibility for the ship, her crew and her cargo.

The advice given by the "authorities" is that a full plan of action is exchanged between the master and pilot as soon as the pilot boards the vessel.

This is all very well for departure but in many cases it is just not possible when the vessel is entering a port. By the time the pilot has boarded and been taken up to the bridge it is very often essential to start proceeding inwards immediately to avoid going aground or hampering other vessels. In the vast majority of cases the pilot works professionally alongside the master and officers to make up an efficient and safe Bridge Team but it can sometimes break down with disastrous consequences as in the following case, in which I am happy to publish a letter received from the Hong Kong Pilots association in response to MARS In general, we are mindful of the service these reports render in terms of general awareness amongst the sea-going community.

The Nautical Institute

We are sure they are as avidly read by pilots world-wide as they are by those engaged on somewhat longer voyages. There is however, the danger that those who provide such reports also take on the role of witness, reporter, judge and vested interest, all at the same time.

In a Marine Court these roles are judiciously separated and we can be grateful for that. We are confident that the readers are aware of this characteristic and interpret the reports with care. SEAWAYS itself goes to the extent of omitting the names of those involved, in the vast majority of cases, so that a MARS report does not become a battleground between the parties involved.

In this instance, the peculiar circumstances of the case have resulted in a reversal of the traditional safeguards of identity.


For this reason, we wish to clarify the issues involved, not only for the sake of a fair presentation of the facts but also to uphold the reputation of the Hong Kong, China Pilots Association, which is the only body providing pilotage services in Hong Kong, China.

MARS has impugned the integrity of the service we provide through stating the incident occurred in Hong Kong, China waters and involved a pilot in these waters. The following paragraphs represent our analysis of that event and the results of our own investigation into the incident. We feel this phrase is appropriate and regret that such careful terminology was not used in the remainder of the report. There are some fundamental differences between the MARS report and the report of the pilot who we understand attended the vessel in question.

The Pilot's perception is that the Master reported that the anchor chain "felt tight", whereupon the Pilot turned to the Second Officer standing next to the telegraph and requested "Dead Slow Ahead" to give a kick ahead to take the stress off the chain.