Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
200. Have there been more prosecutions since
then of people who have actually had near-misses or not observed
the proper navigation rules?
(Mr McKinney) To be perfectly honest, we do not believe
there is any great record of near-misses. As regards prosecutions,
basically the only prosecution I am aware of was in Milford Haven
where the Port Authority and the Harbour Master were prosecuted
over the Sea Empress. To my knowledge there have been no further
201. Do you think that safety standards in UK
ports are as good as anywhere else in the world?
(Mr McKinney) I believe we have a very high standard
of safety in UK ports but that is not to be complacent about it.
I believe we should aim for even better safety standards.
202. The fact that lots of people are now getting
these exemption certificates does not really matter.
(Mr McKinney) There are two sides to this story.
203. Tell us what they are for the record.
(Mr McKinney) The pilotage exemption certificate is
issued to the master of a ship who is a regular trader and completes
a specified number of trips to a port and on his experience of
coming in and out of the port is then granted the pilotage exemption
certificate for that particular port.
204. On the assumption that he knows how to
handle the ship within that port.
(Mr McKinney) That is correct and has local knowledge
of the port. However, there is a lack of consistency in it because
in some ports they are very, very strict on these pilotage exemption
certificates and in other ports they are not so strict. For example,
the number of trips a master may be required to carry out in a
port may be very low.
205. Is it not laid down anywhere?
(Mr McKinney) It is only laid down locally. There
is no national standard. This is again something which the Department
is looking into for the future. We do know that in Milford Haven,
prior to the Sea Empress disaster, a master was only required
to carry out one trip in and one trip out of Milford Haven before
he was granted an exemption certificate.
206. Is that competitive pressure between ports?
What do I do if I am an owner? I go along and say I can get into
this port with an exemption certificate, can I get into your port
with an exemption certificate?
(Mr McKinney) I do not believe it was the case with
Milford Haven which is a major oil port which sits on its own.
I do believe it may be the case perhaps where there are many little
ports grouped together, competing against each other, that they
may be a bit more liberal about exemption certificates.
207. What about pressure generally on pilotage
to make sure that boats get in, catch the tide, get out quickly?
Is pressure applied in that way?
(Mr McKinney) The pressure is always there. A ship
may arrive later than its ETA on the last bit of the flood tide
and the pressure may be there to get the ship safely alongside;
maybe dockers have been ordered for a certain time and the pressure
is always there.
208. Is it unreasonable pressure?
(Mr McKinney) In most cases not, but on occasions
it can be.
209. Can you give us an example of when it is
(Mr McKinney) I believe the Sea Empress was a case
of pressure. I believe it may have been expedient that that job
was aborted before it ever took place. I believe there was a certain
amount of pressure there.
210. In the evidence from the UK Maritime Pilots'
Association it says "... a pilot expedites the safe and efficient
passage of a vessel to or from a port or harbour" because
of the restricted waters in there. How important is the role played
by pilots in ensuring the safety of those using major ports? Is
the importance of that role recognised by ports and by shipowners
(Mr Graveson) Yes, the pilot is absolutely vital for
the safe navigation of ships in and out of port. Mr McKinney has
just been referring to the issue of pilotage exemption certificates.
Today, with the manning level on many of the ships, and this has
been identified by Admiral Lang, the Head of the Marine Accident
Investigation Branch, fatigue is a big issue, a very big issue
indeed. Often after a long and hazardous voyage, coming in and
out of port is where the greatest danger exists and the master
then has to navigate the ship in very difficult waters. There
is often very little adequate support and backup to the master
who is conducting the pilotage and therefore there is potential
... In many instances the masters are very glad that the pilot
has come on because they are tired.
211. Do you support that view, Mr McKinney?
(Mr McKinney) Yes, I totally support that view.
212. You have said in evidence that you consider
that the question of the safety of our ports has been seriously
neglected from the introduction of the Pilotage Act 1987. In what
way do you think it has been neglected?
(Mr Graveson) Following the 1987 Pilotage Act the
pendulum swung too far and a great deal was left to the so-called
competent harbour authorities to determine certain levels and
standards. Recently Andrew Burr of the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions has undertaken a review which has culminated
in the port operations code and guide. That is certainly going
to go some way towards improving the situation and swinging the
(Mr McKinney) From the time the 1987 Pilotage Act
was introduced there was no supervision of what went on in our
harbours and ports. There was no policing of how they were being
managed up until the Sea Empress accident and the subsequent MAIB
report and the review of the Pilotage Act.
213. Have you ever challenged the port authorities
(Mr McKinney) It would be fair to say that in a number
of cases, certainly the PLA in London was a case, the pilots have
challenged on safety matters but we did not have much success
in changing their minds on these things.
Mr O'Brien: You say there has been one case.
214. No, you are saying that one case was the
(Mr McKinney) No, there have been other cases where
we have made representations to the ports, but basically not very
much has happened.
215. Would it be fair to say that there is not
a great deal of evidence that there has been gross neglect by
(Mr McKinney) Probably not any hard and fast evidence.
216. Mr McKinney, I think you said earlier that
the safety record in the industry is pretty high but it could
be improved. I paraphrase slightly but I think those were your
words. NUMAST say in their evidence "... that many port and
harbour authorities are failing to ensure an adequate level of
safetynot only for dock workers, but also for crew members
transiting between the ship and the dock entrance". Which
one of those statements is correct?
(Mr Mills) There are two different regions here. We
were relating more to pilotage and the safety aspects which have
been approached by harbour authorities on that line. NUMAST encompassed
the wider field from seafarers to work ashore.
217. Are you saying that there appears to be
a different culture and different approach towards pilotage and
the areas NUMAST referred to, the wider areas of dock workers,
crew members and so on?
(Mr Mills) That is right. Where we are relating to
in pilotage the safety is obviously paramount and that is primarily
218. Clearly if there is that sort of distinction
it is very serious.
(Mr Mills) Recently DETR have produced the port and
marine safety code. This has heightened the obligations that a
harbour authority has under the Pilotage Act. Unfortunately the
port and marine safety code does not enjoy any legislation with
it at the present time. What we have always felt would be beneficial
is if this port and marine safety code actually did have some
teeth to the code.
219. Mr McKinney, would you agree with that?
(Mr McKinney) Yes, I totally agree with that.