EMCO regularly handles cases in Cyprus involving allision, collision and wash damage claims occurring whilst vessels are under pilotage.  In this article we highlight some issues and provide advice for Owners to take into account when vessels are under pilotage.

The Cyprus Ports Authority Regulations make it is clear that the pilotage (and tug) service is at the risk and expense of the vessel.  In addition, pilotage is compulsory when entering and leaving Cypriot ports.

As in most ports in the world, it is extremely difficult to successfully bring an action holding pilots responsible for any damage caused to/by the vessel in Cyprus.  This is because the pilot is there to advise the Master and not take command of the ship.  The ship remains subject to the Master’s ultimate command and, as such, a negligent act by the pilot will legally be deemed a negligent act by the Master.  Even if an action against the pilot or his Authority for negligence were successful, there is nearly always a limit of liability.  This is usually a de minimis amount.

It is therefore strongly advised that Owners/Masters of vessels calling to ports in Cyprus should be extra vigilant and ensure that all formalities are carried out correctly in relation to the pilot coming onboard.  The Master should ensure, for example, that all relevant equipment, including the pilot ladder and man ropes are secured properly and a responsible officer is standing by to meet the pilot.  The pilot’s ID should always be checked, the Master/pilot exchange carried out, the passage plan to enter or leave the port discussed, and any concerns voiced and documented where necessary.

Master/Pilot Exchange and the Pilot Card

Many incidents occur due to a mixture of poor bridge team management and pilot error.  It is therefore essential that the Master and crew understand the pilot’s intended passage plan for the ship – this is the purpose of the Master/pilot exchange when the pilot first boards the ship.  It is an opportunity to confirm arrangements for the planned transit/berth / unberthing manoeuvre, when as much information as possible should be exchanged.  A passage plan should be agreed between them and shared with the bridge team.
A pilot card should also be accurately completed and handed to the pilot.  This provides basic information regarding the vessel (such as the vessel’s LOA, beam, dead weight tonnage, draft forward and aft, the engine’s RPM & speed in her present condition ahead and astern, the type of propeller, her bow & stern thruster’s power and other technical details), and allows the pilot to better plan the manoeuvres to be carried out.

The Master should give the pilot an understanding of how the vessel will be expected to respond and be told of any issues with the vessel and her equipment which may affect her manoeuvring whilst on passage.

Monitoring the vessel and the pilot

The bridge team should always monitor and record the vessel’s position (on the chart or ECDIS), as she proceeds into or out of port, working with the pilot and providing a second pair of eyes so that the vessel’s progress is checked in advance and errors prevented.  Often, the duty officer or Master is unwilling to question the pilot or waits too long to challenge something they feel is wrong.  The pilot is there to advise and therefore the bridge team should not be afraid to raise questions about the pilot’s intentions, to probe, alert and challenge if they feel something is not going to plan.

For smooth sailing:

  1. Effective and timely communication between the Master and the pilot is key.
  2. Ensure all the formalities in relation to pilotage and the Master/pilot exchange are carried out properly, and that the bridge team closely monitor the vessel and pilot throughout.

The Master is in command, and if he decides the pilot’s actions are causing him concern then he should not hesitate to intervene, taking over from the pilot if necessary.