More on accidents and why.

By John G. Denham

A pilotage pardox presently exists because of the lack of explanations as to the “root cause” of accidents; basically, a failure to comply with existing rules. There are more rules than there are ships. Piloting is a function of navigation, but it requires an understanding of who is directing the navigation of the vessel i.e., an employed pilot not a ship’s officer, or a ship’s officer licensed to pilot. (33CFR Part 164.11). Standards for duties and responsibility for persons in charge of a vessel (persons piloting) have been legally established in Atlee v N.W. Packet Co., (1874) ,88 U.S. 389, 22l.ed. 619.

By law, custom, tradition and attitude many pilots that have not experienced the U.S. courts continue to perform as “one man shows.” However one must recognize the difference between a river pilot and a bar/harbor pilot: e.g navigating the San Francisco Bar Channel and the ports on San Francisco Bay and the pilots that navigate to Sacramento and Stockton, California. In the later case, a river pilot is “directing the navigation” This is not to say that the route to and from sea is a “piece of cake”, it is not.

The view that transiting the Oakland Bar Channel is a “relatively simple matter” is misleading in that the bar channel is nearly perpendicular to the currents and the published predictions are frequently inaccurate. Therefore, in limited visibility a person directing the navigation must rely on radar navigation to determine set and drift as it occurs because as one transits the bar channel the effect of the current changes. Experience in this case dictates: in fog, one concentrate on radar navigation.

Hearings, inquiries and investigation seldom develop the “root cause” of accidents because they have limited experience, knowledge and are mostly guided by bureaucratic constraints and therefore if fault is found, they send the culprit to ship handling training. Why, because there is no other appropriate remedy available.

No one knows what actually occurred except the Captain of COSCO BUSAN and pilot Cota i,e: why so many rudder orders? What passage plan was discussed? Was the track plotted on the chart 588 accepted by the pilot and Master? The NTSB hearing produced exceptional testimony and information however, no analysis or report has been produced, but professional mariners and second guessers have theories. Under keel clearance does have a maneuvering effect in current and changing water depths, but probably not relevant in this case. Using only NTSB data at time 08 27 37 Cosco Busan there appears no feasible alternative course change to the right.

Most importantly, is the mostly common practice of pilots and ships not using BRM as a safety feature in voyages and navigation practice. Although taught, stressed and published BRM is not universally followed. There are reasons, some valid, but all are resolvable. .

Many ports have a relatively calm and secured bay for pilot operations that allow discussion. Not so at the ocean boarding stations at some west coast pilot stations, however there is no rule that one should proceed at full speed until ready.

Essentially, if the BRM is to be accepted and function as per its purpose, then the owners, managers and professional pilots must mandate implementation. The simple solution ” if the BRM is not functional the vessel is not seaworthy” JGD

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