Master / Pilot Relationship

The Pilot is an adviser, NEVER IN COMMAND.


Oh man. Did you just tell an ex Houston pilot he is just an advisor? :cold_face:


After seeking clarification from the pilot, if the master or the officer still believes «on objective grounds» that the pilot’s actions are endangering the safety of the vessel, he should immediately take whatever action necessary to reestablish the safety.

Objectivity is a concept of being true, independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions or imagination !

Maybe it is news to him, but I doubt it. He probably wouldn’t like to be held legally and financially responsible for any damages that may occure during pilotage though.

There are exceptions to the rule of Pilots Advice. The Panama Canal, the Houston Ship Canal are two. I was also advised by a pilot that in Puget Sound picking up the pilot from Port Angeles to Seattle, that the State of Washington recognises that the pilot is effectively in command.

I knew about the Panama Canal, but Houston Ship Channel was new to me.

PS> I have always believed that; “Under Master’s Command, Pilot’s Advise” was the correct term, not the other way around.

My initial post was tongue in cheek. Houston has some very skilled pilots but as one old man I sailed with used to say “from how they tell it, you’d think they invented water”.


This off-topic side track started with this:

In reality the pilot is given the conn, which means control of the ship’s movements, which is what 118 was saying. Of course the captain remains in command of the vessel. Just as giving a mate the conn, the captain is not turning over command of the vessel, just control of it’s movements.

First of all, I never said the pilot was “in command” (in caps or lower case). I said the pilot would have been maneuvering the ship. And the Panama Canal is the only place I know of where the pilots legally are in command of the vessel. Houston is like any other port in that respect; the pilots are officially advisors. Having said that, only someone who has not been on the bridge of a ship in a busy channel has any doubts who is directing the operation. That would include orders to helmsman, speed changes, and communications with authorities and other vessels. Surprisingly often, the captain is not even on the bridge except to meet the pilot and then later for docking. In 30 years as a pilot I never had a ship captain do more than ask for clarification of a maneuver. The idea that a mate might have initiated a vessel saving maneuver with a pilot on board is not impossible but it would be very rare and I asked if that was the case. It was explained to me that the post was about a different vessel that did not have a pilot on board. Kudos to the mate.


Y’all just reminded me of this:
Poor planning & lacking Master Pilot team work leads to collision of ship with Jetty
(so I got to cringe all over again, thanks)

Confusing the issue in the relationship is the mistaken perception that the pilot is aboard in an advisory capacity. This is not true in actual practice in pilotage waters. The pilot «conducting» the ship gives all the directions concerning the ships movement, while it is rather the master who «advice» the pilot as to the capabilities of the ship or its equipment or crew.

No legal decisions have ever held that compulsory pilotage was advisory in nature. The «pilot as advisor» myth persists reinforced by the entry in some log books «Proceeding to master’s orders and pilot advice».

From Hopkins:

Division of Control between Master and Pilot. Generally speaking the
rights and duties of a pilot are the same whether the pilotage is compulsory or
voluntary, and whether the pilot is licensed or unlicensed. Although he is
charged with the safety of the ship and is bound to use all reasonable diligence,
care, and skill, he is charged with “pilot’s duties” only. He does not supersede
the master in command but acts as his “adviser”. He is, nevertheless, entitled to
the same assistance from the crew as the master is entitled to when no pilot is
on board, and the master has a duty to see that officers and crew duly attend to
the pilot’s orders. The courts always tend to take the view that the “advice” of a
pilot is advice that the master should follow on account of the pilot’s specialised
local knowledge and special skill, but that is not to say that the master is bound
to follow the pilot’s advice implicitly if it would appear in the master’s
deliberate judgment to involve danger to the ship.

«Conduct (verb)»; A regulation having statutory force which provides that a ship is to be conducted by a pilot does not mean that she is to be navigated under his advice; it means that she must be conducted, her movement controlled or be navigated by a pilot in charge.

«The pilot does not act as an advisor to the Master but actually navigates the ship. In point of fact the Master is then, to a certain extent, an advisor to the pilot when he points out the peculiarities of the ship. This factual situation which corresponds to the legal definition of pilot is, in fact, the only realistic solution because; if pilots were used merely as advisors, navigation would be very hazardous and, at times, it would be impossible to proceed safely».

If anyone is merely used as an advisor and not entrusted with the navigation of the ship, he is certainly not the pilot of that vessel !

How did I miss this when it came out in the theaters? Thanks for sharing.

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No problem putting the monkey on a pilot’s back for a short trip. Of course, its compulsory in most cases. However, you know your ship and if the pilot makes some adjustment order that you find detrimental, then you are obligated to act accordingly and have the authority to do so as per ISM. I’ve seen several videos on YouTube lately of ships hitting dock cranes, and even had a Foreign Master go to jail in Mobile, Al, by not taking swift action, San Francisco, etc… I know there are local legal obligations in certain cases, but I will not give two shits about that if I must jump in. The lawyers will figure that one out later. Who in their right mind would only watch a catastrophe unfold just because a local jurisdiction places a “in command” delegation to the pilot. The Master will certainly not be obsolved from the result and response to a pilot’s bad decision.

«The lawsuit contends that Captain Wolfgang Schroder ignored repeated warnings that the ship should not leave port (Mobile) without assistance from tugboats.»

Do you have better example …

There is a whole slew of accidents attributed to the Master’s failure to oversee the pilot. Here’s one off the top of my head:

While far from the most egregious example, it’s also a reminder to correlate multiple sources of positioning data, but that’s a whole different discussion.


Just pick one.

Report on the investigation of heavy contact with the quay and two shore cranes by the UK registered container ship CMA CGM Centaurus at Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates 4 May 2017;

«When a port makes pilotage compulsory it has a responsibility to ensure the pilotage service provided is of an appropriate standard. Specifically, port authorities must ensure that the pilots they provide are qualified, trained and competent in their role. DP World recruited qualified master mariners with a minimum of 5 years previous experience as its pilots, and expected that they would be conducting pilotage on ships of up to 200m length after 1 month of familiarisation training. Newly recruited pilots were not provided with BRM training as it was assumed that they had undertaken this either in the course of obtaining their qualifications or during previous employment.»

Can you really qualify someone as a «pilot» after only 1 month of familiarization training intended for handling a vessel up to 200m in length with no BMR ? :thinking:

In the case of a uneventful transit I haven’t observed any difference in the pilot / master relationship in the Panama Canal as opposed to other ports.

Even in the case of an incident the ship will still have to prove that all the pilots orders were properly carried out, machinery functioning etc.

There may be no legal requirement for the master to point out errors but as has been said that shouldn’t stop the master if he wants to avoid damage or a delay. It may be true that in the event of an incident that correcting the pilot in the PC might turn out to be more legally perilous.

The canal does have one more ace up their sleeve, in the case of a claim of damage to the ship the canal authority can delay the ship while an investigation is held. At least 24 hrs that I am aware of. So if the damage is less then the day rate it makes more economical sense to just eat the costs rather then delay.

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