BRM - A Pilot's Perspective

I know there are several passed and present Pilots here,.
Any comments to his perspective?:


I would agree that effective communication is fundamental to safe navigation during Pilotage and this is one of the cornerstones of the BRM principle. There was little or no effective communication on the bridges of the “Ever Given” and “Ever Forward” resulting in extremely poor outcomes.

Sadly, a Maritime Utopia does not exist and communications within a Bridge Team are generally affected by cultural mixes resulting in significant power distance, fatigue and extremely long periods of continuous service. We are attempting to to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The other related issue is the lack of standardisation of bridge equipment and this was borne out in the article when gyro error was affecting the radar outputs. “ Something seems to be wrong with your radar Captain”.

We got around this issue by employing PPU stabilised with RTK corrections. The laptop would be placed at the conning position and the bridge team would be invited to view and challenge the predicted outputs. Whilst conducting the berthing, with the laptop placed on the wing extremity, it was always interesting to see how focussed the Captain became between visual analysis and electronic analysis.


It’s a good article, written by a pilot in the form of a narrative to explain the principles of BRM with a pilot aboard.

There are links in the article to material in more technical form.

Here’s one Pilot error survey

Collisions involving pilot error accounted for 24 per cent of claims by number and 24 per cent by cost. On average there were 14 collision cases per year involving pilot error and the average cost of each case was USD 800,000. The report recommends bridge teams to keep a proper look-out and not to forget that their eyes are still the most sophisticated aid to do so.

Attempting to circumvent the one person accident via the constructed principles of BRM is a positive stepping stone yet is basically ineffectual and idealistic within the Maritime arena.

What needs to be done, given modern satellite based technology, is the introduction of shore based monitoring teams situated in VTS stations who are well trained and tasked with challenge and response via VHF comms. When a vessel enters a challenge zone the bridge team, via the Pilot, are notified. PPU outputs can be monitored by the same shore team to ensure that SOP’s are being complied with. The fact that the Pilot is aware that they are constantly being monitored will inherently introduce rigour into the Pilotage task………and in the case of “Ever Forward”………get them off the mobile phone.

The new world.

Not looking for an ideal situation, trying to make a few, maybe small improvements at the margin.

Regard the shoreside monitoring team as the co-Pilot as is the case in the aircraft cockpit. Well trained, little variation in skill set and excellent communication. Homogeneous management…….HMT.

Probably also why so many Pilots will ask to set one radar in heads-up, relative motion. It takes the any gyro problem out of the equation.

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I thought at first this was an “aircraft pilot’s” take on BRM.
Not far from here there was a severe lack of BRM and the Ever Forward became the (almost) Ever Stuck, so we can see what happens when you don’t have any BRM.

When I sold radar sets, I always set it that way to teach the new owners. If something is ahead of you coming straight at you on the screen, you can look up and see it coming straight at you in real life too :slight_smile:

A bit of an aside I took from this, about communication. Seagoing officers and pilots communications are a 180 out. The seagoing officer has, or at least should have, very good communications with his own shipmates, bridge crew. But limited ( maybe better now with AIS) ability to directly communicate with other vessels he/she may encounter, and almost no knowlege of their competence, languange skills etc. Where as a pilot may not know the bridge team he is working with on a ship by ship basis, they often have superior knowlege and comunication with the ships he/she encounders, mostly with his/her fellow pilots. I always considered this a huge advantage and an argument for taking pilots.


Hi Guys,

Just joined this forum.

Recently retired UK Pilot in a major UK Port.
Don’t want to cause any controversy but I did want to address this issue.

One of the things that shocked me and seems to always shock new Pilots is the poor standards of Bridge Crews.
One of my former Mates who went on to be Captain in The UK Offshore Sector became a Pilot in an adjacent Large UK Port. His statement when asked if he was enjoying his new job was " I thought we had very relaxed Bridge Procedures in our former company. NO , we were brilliant compared to what I have seen since becoming a pilot" We were docking the very largest Ships in the world.
This is not a dig at some of the very best Bridge Crews but the truth is that the competent Bridge Crews were the exception rather than the rule.
This was true for ALL Nationalities. Yes Sorry I know this is an American oriented forum but In my experience Americans were some way down the the list of competency by Nationality.

While I agree with most of what Ausmariner says I for one would not like to see any more intervention by Shoreside in Pilotage. In fact our VTS were trained to go very silent when a close quarters situation was developing on their screens as radar vectors are only a reflection of the past not what is happening in reality. For example 2 Ships meeting on a river bend. A VHF call is only a distraction when you are close together and most of not all of us would ignore it and deal with what is happening outside the window.

Yacht Sailor makes a very valid point about head up displays but from reading other posts I believe He is an Aircraft Pilot. I am also a high hours Aircraft Pilot with an Instructor, Multi and IR rating. What he fails to understand, and I don’t criticize him for is that is Mariners have got soo used to working with a North up display that it’s hard to change our ways. It’s only Third World Pilots that will use a Head Up Radar display.
Maybe this needs to change, I don’t know, but it will eliminate the issue that The Norwegian Pilot addressed in the linked article.

Or do we need more competent Bridge Crews,?

The very best Bridge Crews would have highlighted the Gyro Error during the MPX.

Please don’t get me wrong I worked with some top class Bridge Crews of every Nationality but they were few and far between.

BRM was still a dream when I retired last year


Hello 244 and welcome to the forum.

I retired four years ago having completed in excess 5000 Pilotages which, consequently, gave me exposure to a significant number of bridge teams of varying nationalities and competencies. In my experience, the most competent and effective teams were those on passenger vessels where challenge and response was drummed into them and continually practiced.

In general I found all other bridge teams to range from being reasonably effective to being downright dangerous. In order to protect ourselves plus our employers and comply with strict SOP’s, our MPX documentation was very specific and signed by both parties, we employed auditable RTK corrected PPU and always carried a digital voice recorder in our top pocket.

Power distance, poor competency and fatigue are wonderful antidotes to the idealistic concept of BRM in my opinion.

The recent Evergreen debacles are great examples of the one man accident.

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Yes I agree. The Top Line Cruise Operators using the Challenge and Response method was very effective. Not so much so with the lessor Cruise Operators.
As I Pilot I found that you had to fit in with the culture on The Bridge whatever that was. From total indifference to total integration. I always found that talking out loud my intentions would help share the Mental Model. I would also positively involve The Captain by engaging him or her during Manoeuvring eg " Speed Ok Captain? "
We used an iPad with a navigation function for all vessels which also had our passage plan on it for signing. Found it very useful for The MPX particularly when Bridges become electronic as not from that generation found it difficult to manipulate each version of electronic charts. To have a system I was familiar with to conduct The MPX was invaluable.
On Ultra Large Vessels we would employ 2 Pilots of equal authorisation and carry a PPU with RTK. One was designated as Lead Pilot and conducted the Manoeuvring with the other in a support or co pilot role.
It did take a bit of a change in thinking when we introduced this system as by this time I had been authorised for 14 years or so and used to being the sole pilot. The system works and we were very proud of the system and our safety record.

As with any individuals we had some great and not some not so great pilots but our training system did produce good pilots.

Individual errors do happen and I felt much happier when The Bridge Team were monitoring my actions. But your comments about Power Difference are very valid and little understood particularly by Ship Management as I have seen some very poor combinations of Nationality.

Pilots observe that there is a lot of variance in skill levels on various ships. I’ve jumped a lot from trade to trade and have called to many ports and I can say there is also a lot of variance in the different ports of the skill level of pilots.

Based on what’s been said on this thread and the Radiance of the Seas incident in Sitka thread it sounds like the approach used by some of the cruise lines to avoid problems with inexpert piloting is to train the bridge team to operate independently of the pilot if necessary.


Yes I am an aircraft pilot and the aircraft radar is head-up :slight_smile:

I grew to really dislike north-up on any vessel that could turn quickly and had a slow heading sensor, the screen would end up all over the place. Obviously not a problem on a tanker.


I absolutely agree that there is a huge variation in the skill levels displayed by Pilots. Let us remember that both of the Evergreen incidents were primarily a result of the actions of the attending Pilots……although…….

………this thread is directed towards the efficacy of BRM and as we all understand, irrespective of relative competencies, conceptually it was designed to prevent the one person accident. So far as I am concerned this concept, in this instance, is flawed.

When the “Ever Given” Pilot was challenged by the Master he threatened to leave the ship.

When the “Ever Forward” Pilot was challenged by the duty officer, whilst the Master was absent from the bridge, any remedial action came too late.

I could go on ad infinitum about the shortcomings of BRM being geared to and reliant on diverse professional behaviour.

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Agree - hoping it is much much better these days - but years ago many Pilots did not have a very good fundemental understanding of the forces operating on the ships. They were either tug guys with enough experiance and/or talent to overcome it - or just some guys who kind of had the route programed into them. These guys got better with time and experiance - but many I saw were a bit over their head at the start of the solo trips. And some were just plain bad - almost as a group - NOBRA comes to mind - sure most of this has changed over the years

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So maybe a dumb question:
If I hire a pilot to get me into Baltimore, am I expecting them to be able to do all the throttle and helm commands to keep my boat in the channel or are they telling me to steer this way and relying on me to actually make it happen?

both - good pilots will use helm commands to get the boat where they want it - and then, often will give the helmsmen the channel course to steer. And they may change the course depending on how they are being set. Bad pilots ( IMO) will often start a turn with a helm order, and then give the helmsmen the next course and leave it for them to stop it there -


BRM in action
3M to the pilot " think we getting pretty tight to make this turn"
Pilot back - with his back to the window " its OK son"
3M back - “Ok Captain, i just have never gone between 2 red bouys before”
Pilot turning around quickly " Left 20 "