The Antipodean Mariner heard an astounding assertion from a harbour pilot. The pilot was expressing his disdain at the helicopter pilot who flew him out to his ships. This was expressed by telling the helicopter pilot “that he could qualify to fly a helicopter in a couple of years, but it would take the helicopter pilot fifteen years to get his Masters Certificate to pilot a ship!”
And so the conversation turned on to what applicable ship handling skills the harbour pilot had gained correcting charts, tying up ships and keeping a bridge watch in those fifteen years?
Master and Pilot: Bloomburg/Tim Rue
The traditional path for a harbour pilot is to go to sea as a Cadet, rise through the ranks to Second Mate, obtain a Master’s ticket and then jump into a Port Authority as a trainee Pilot at about 30. The model is surprisingly robust – perhaps not so surprising given that port pilots recruit and train port pilots.
One area where maritime pilotage is woefully behind the technology curve is simulator training. Before a port pilot jumps to the Comments Page, simulators are being used extensively for in-service skills development and emergency training. But simulator training is not being used to fast-track savvy Gen Y’s and so bypassing a cadetship largely spent painting ships and making coffee (for pilots).
The aviation industry recognised and has developed accredited simulator training programmes to put high aptitude individuals in aircraft cockpits. This was in recognition that the growth in global aviation was outstripping military and private aviation’s ability to train flight crews.
The maritime industry is facing a similar crisis with changing crew demographics and the breakdown of the traditional career path. It is entirely feasible to simulator-train an individual in ship handling and deliver a productive employee is 2-3 years. There will no doubt be some stigma and aspersions cast by the old guard. But with an ageing pool of senior officers capable of, or willing to, fulfil pilotage roles something new has to be put into the mix.
Pilotage is a transferable skill - it is not a religious calling or an ancient, secret order.
The Antipodean Mariner