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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 840 -i
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
MONDAY 17 december 2012
RICHARD CREASE, ANDREW LININGTON, CAPTAIN D. P. COCKRILL
and NICK CUTMORE
DAVID PHILLIPS, STEPHEN BRACEWELL, GAVIN SIMMONDS
and DAVID SNELSON
STEpHEN HAMMOND MP
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 110
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Transport Committee
on Monday 17 December 2012
Mrs Louise Ellman (Chair)
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Richard Crease, Chair of the National Industrial Sector Committee for Docks, Rail, Ferries and Waterways, Unite the Union, Andrew Linington, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Nautilus International, Captain D. P. Cockrill, Chairman, UK Maritime Pilots Association, and Nick Cutmore, Secretary General, International Maritime Pilots Association, gave evidence.
Q1Chair: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the Transport Committee. Could you give us your names and the organisations you are representing?
Richard Crease: I am Richard Crease, Unite the Union.
Andrew Linington: I am Andrew Linington, Nautilus International.
Captain Cockrill: I am Don Cockrill, UK Maritime Pilots Association.
Nick Cutmore: I am Nick Cutmore, International Maritime Pilots Association.
Q2Chair: You have all expressed concerns about the current situation and the proposals in relation to pilotage. Why do you think the Government and industry are, as you say, persistently looking to undermine the value and quality of UK pilotage for short-term commercial expediency?
Captain Cockrill: One can sum it up very briefly, in as much as pilotage within the ports industry seems to be regarded as a cost rather than an asset-it is something that has to be put up with, rather than something to be taken maximum advantage of. Because of that, it always appears that ways are being sought to circumnavigate, if I can use the expression, the costs involved with the recruitment, training and maintenance of pilotage services.
Andrew Linington: From our perspective, we would agree with all that and add that pilotage is the most critical part of a ship’s voyage. You are dealing with the part of the voyage that has the most accidents and is the most dangerous; you are in inherently dangerous waters. Our concern is that you have an environment in which there is a very light touch approach to regulation of this sector, and we seem to be going downhill rather than uphill in terms of gold-plating regulation.
Q3Chair: Mr Crease, do you agree with that?
Richard Crease: I agree with all the sentiments that have been echoed. I am a tug master who works with pilots on a daily basis in the port of Southampton. I feel totally safe with the professionally trained pilots on board the ship, working under their instructions.
Nick Cutmore: It is an illustration of what has been said earlier. We need to consider that over the river, some nine years ago, the International Maritime Organisation made recommendations on the training and certification of marine pilots. Those have never been passed by the UK delegation, as far as we are aware, to any authority within the United Kingdom. We have to ask ourselves why we send an expensive delegation to IMO-it costs the UK taxpayer lots of money. We have something fundamental coming out there that does not permeate down to the ports. Is that a philosophical objection? I don’t know. It was a recommendation in the review of the 1987 Act that the UK took that on board positively. The UK was conspicuously opposed to those standards being developed at IMO. Is that part of their remit and the reason why they never filtered down? It is certainly not part of the Port Marine Safety Code, and I find that significant and disappointing.
Q4Chair: What do you think of the part that the Department for Transport has played in this? Do you think it could have done more?
Nick Cutmore: It could have done a huge amount more. I know more about what is going on in the Australian, American, German and French Administrations than about what is going on in the UK Administration.
Q5Chair: Why do you think that is?
Nick Cutmore: I don’t know. There is a clear absence of resources; there seems to be a lack of drive. I do not know to what extent they are driven by pressure from other interested parties in the UK that pilotage, as Captain Cockrill said, is a cost. They don’t see it as a service of benefit. Perhaps that is the reason it is not pursued as we feel it ought to be.
Andrew Linington: We see an inherent tension between the DFT’s role as regulator and its role in making the ports commercially attractive. There is a real tension between saying we want the highest possible standards and, at the same time, saying we want ports to be competitive with the rest of Europe or competitive among themselves. There is a dichotomy between those two approaches.
Q6Chair: How do you think that could be solved?
Andrew Linington: One argument would be to say that safety becomes the remit of another organisation.
Captain Cockrill: From our perspective, part of the problem lies in a lack of technical knowledge within the Department on actual maritime operations. There is a lot of information available in the written word, in reports, and on the business side of things. I have no doubt there is a lot of knowledge within the Department on that side of things. When it comes down to what is actually going on, on board ships, on a day-to-day basis, there is a huge lack of practical, current knowledge. There is no integrated relationship between the Department and the practitioners, whether it is pilots, harbour masters or Nautilus International representing ships’ officers. Because of that, an awful lot of decisions and policies are made based on inaccurate interpretations, which is a polite way to put it rather than saying they are intentionally wrong. We don’t believe that, but there is a lack of information. There is a lot of input coming from some sectors of the industry but not others, and it is all out of balance.
Q7Chair: Mr Crease, do you want to add anything to that?
Richard Crease: Unite’s position is quite clear. We believe there is no joined-up, cohesive maritime policy within the UK.
Q8Steve Baker: Mr Linington, you gave a very clear and powerful picture of a ship coming in from a long voyage needing a pilot, which I thought was fine, but does your organisation concern itself exclusively with those long international journeys?
Andrew Linington: By no means.
Q9Steve Baker: I read in the written evidence an account of barges and dredgers operating out of London where it seems safety could be improved by increasing the number of people with pilot exemption certificates on board those dredgers. Is that something you recognise?
Andrew Linington: We would have issues around the issue of PECs. Our whole argument around PECs is about the skills and experience of the holders. At the moment, the arguments are very much focused on widening the remit for those who qualify to get them, whereas we have always argued that the remit, if anything, should be tighter than it currently is. As to where our concerns particularly lie-it goes back to what Don was saying earlier-you have to recognise the pressures on the people at the sharp end. Our concerns are particularly with short sea ships where there is very lean manning. There may be very few crew members, who have done, say, three or four ports in a row, and they are tired. Our concerns are about them being responsible for the pilotage of a vessel on top of those long working hours and frequent port calls. That is the context in which you have to see this.
Q10Steve Baker: Would you be happy with these dredgers going in and out of the port of London with a number of navigating officers on board? Would you be happy for them to have a third navigating officer with a pilot exemption certificate in order to reduce the stress on the current two holders of PECs?
Andrew Linington: Yes. We have recognised that, for instance, for ferries and ships that are frequent visitors on defined trades, the case can be made.
Q11Iain Stewart: Mr Cutmore, you have mentioned some international examples. In a general sense, is this a UK problem, or is there a slippage in standards in ports around the world? I hate to use the phrase "race to the bottom", but ports are competing to undermine each other’s costs.
Nick Cutmore: All ports and shipowners have the same issues worldwide, but this is a UK problem. I find it very strange-and slightly embarrassing as well. For example, I was recently in Senegal talking to their Transport Minister, who said he was embarrassed that his country had not enacted the provisions of the relevant IMO resolution into their pilotage law. He said they were desperately trying to catch up with developed countries. I thought, "If only you knew." The disconnect between pilots and the administration-and, indeed, with shipowners and ports in this country-is a UK issue. I see much closer ties within French, Dutch and German ports and their pilots and administrations. It is the same in the US and Latin America. I find the disconnect here very strange, and that was what drove me to submit this paper. Normally, I would stay out of it. I represent an international group, but I am almost speaking as a UK national seeing something very strange in my own country.
Q12Iain Stewart: Is there one country that you think has an exemplary system that we should look to adopt?
Nick Cutmore: Almost anywhere, to be honest. Across the channel, under the French system, the pilots are very connected with their national administration. The same is true for Germany and the Netherlands. They are exemplary systems worth investigating, and they all work very well with the ports there. There is not an attempt to keep a distance and for pilots’ professional expertise to be ignored. They are an asset that UK bodies should take on board; they are people who can contribute to safety and economic benefits in running ports.
Captain Cockrill: If you look at countries within the British Commonwealth that use the same, if not very similar, legislation, Australia and Canada are two good examples of what you would call a good, proper relationship with their Governments within the industry. Can I make a comment on something that was said earlier?
Chair: Yes, please do.
Captain Cockrill: Mr Baker asked about a third navigating officer holding an exemption certificate. The issue is not the number of navigators, but the experience and expertise of the holder of the pilotage exemption certificate. You will only get somebody with the appropriate expertise and experience to make them liable to hold a pilotage exemption certificate, in addition to the master or chief officer, as is the case at the moment, if they are of equal standing. There is nothing to stop a ship having more than one chief officer, who is able, qualified and eligible under the rules of the company to take over the command of the ship from the master if the master is indisposed. You do not need to have only one second in command; you can have more than one. That message seems to be lost in the current debate. What is important is that whoever holds the PEC is somebody with a proper background, qualification and experience, and not just another navigating officer. In the way ships operate, it is far more complex than that.
Q13Sarah Champion: Mr Cutmore, you spoke about UK standards falling against the rest of the world. Do the other members of the panel agree with that? What do each of you think we could do to raise those standards again?
Richard Crease: I work with UK pilots on a daily basis within my own port. They are highly trained professional people. When it comes to operating with people with PECs coming into the port, there is a problem, because they have never been trained to operate with tugs. That is different across some of the UK ports. As part of the PEC, in some ports they have to be trained to operate with tugs; in some ports there is no requirement whatsoever. You could end up with a serious accident in a port where somebody who has been granted a PEC for that particular vessel is untrained, whereas a regular port pilot is trained to operate under their training regime.
Andrew Linington: A really important point that has been touched on is the lack of harmonised standards right across the board. There is the lack of the Port Marine Safety Code being a mandatory document with sanctions attached to ports that fail to discharge the goals within it. You have a regime all the way. I go back to what I said at the beginning about light touch. To us, you are dealing with such fundamental issues of safety-things like qualifying standards-that there should be a much greater degree of harmonisation or joined-up thought as to how those standards are applied.
Captain Cockrill: Looking at it from the perspective of pilotage standards rather than the perspective of ship staff or PECs, one of the problems we face in the UK is that we do not have-believe it or not-a standardised level of qualification for pilots. There is not such a beast; each level is the responsibility of the respective port authority. We have national occupational standards available, but we do not have anything to work with them as a standard. The same goes for the recruitment and training process. Historically, globally, the stepping stone for pilots to begin in most countries of the world-not every one-has been a senior ship’s officer, either a captain or chief officer, or certainly someone qualified at that level. Whether it is for big or small ships does not matter so much, but it is at that level. That standard is still pretty much the standard round the world. In the UK, we now see port authorities starting to recruit people with almost negligible maritime background qualifications and putting them through a relatively short period of training. A six-month initial training period for a pilot with a senior maritime background would be normal. Because there is no proper standard in place, we are now seeing respectable, reputable port authorities recruiting people with minimal maritime background and putting them through the same six-month training period.
Q14Chair: Could you tell us where that is happening?
Captain Cockrill: It is happening at the moment with ABP in south Wales. They have recruited an individual who is qualified with an RYA yachtmaster and was coxswain of a pilot boat. He was recruited in September, and it is intended that he will have his first authorisation in April. There is a training programme in place for him, but you have to ask yourself how that can possibly supplement what is basically 14 or 15 years’ seagoing knowledge, which is the foundation for a pilot’s training. I don’t wish to harp on about other countries, but if you look at the Australian way of doing things, they have already devised an alternative route process, if necessary, for individuals with that sort of background to come into the profession, but they are talking of years of background training before the individual would be eligible to start training as a pilot.
Q15Chair: Mr Linington, you mentioned a concern about the Marine Safety Code not being statutory. Can you tell us any places where it is not being implemented?
Andrew Linington: The concerns that we have articulated in the past came particularly from the port of Newhaven, where a number of MAIB reports had highlighted particular problems. I am sure that there are other examples. I know we had previous concerns about what had been highlighted in a number of MAIB reports at Newhaven, in particular.
Q16Chair: Do you want it to be statutory?
Andrew Linington: Yes, with a level of mandatory application behind it.
Q17Chair: What does "a level of mandatory application" mean?
Andrew Linington: The code itself should have a standing in law so that, if ports are not complying with the requirements, there are sanctions to be imposed on them.
Richard Crease: It is a matter of public record that we sat with your predecessor and requested that it be made mandatory. This Committee recommended that it was made mandatory, because we said that possibly there would be an incident-and there was: the Flying Phantom. That port authority was found to be non-compliant at the time. We have had a concern to this day that it should be mandatory. You have a good document that backs that up, which is the guide to good practice, which says there should be regular pilots’ meetings and liaison meetings.
Q18Chair: Mr Crease, our report did say that, because it was the view of our predecessor Committee that that should be done. I am now seeking to identify places or incidents where these things are going wrong or regulation is not happening. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency talk about doing four checks a year and it not being cost-effective to do more. What is your impression about the checks that are made? Is that enough? Is it happening?
Captain Cockrill: To pick up what Andrew said, there are 180 ports or thereabouts that are required to comply with the code, and only about 37% of them will make a triennial return-every three years-that they comply. It is a resource issue. The MCA only have resources to do four health checks or inspections-whatever you like to call them-a year. The maths are pretty simple. It is going to take an awful lot of years for them to get round even to every port that ought to be saying it complies. Even if they just did the 60%, or whatever it is, that don’t put in the letter of compliance and went and visited four a year, it would still take an awfully long time for them to get round all of those ports. Then there is the issue of not having any ability to do very much about it, if they do find something amiss. It is not necessarily a case of not complying with the code full stop; quite often it is a case of not complying with a particular aspect of the code, for whatever reason that might be. I have great sympathy for the MCA’s position in this because it is an under-resourced department with a huge job to do.
Q19Chair: Does anybody else have any views about the way in which checks are-or perhaps are not-carried out? Mr Crease, Unite’s evidence talks about concerns that investigations by the harbour authorities into safety breaches may be biased in favour of the harbour authority. Can you give me any examples of where that has happened?
Richard Crease: We have had numerous reports. In the past, if there has been an incident in the port, a decision has to be made on whether the MIAB will investigate it. On most occasions, the port authority or stakeholder will put a report back to the MIAB and it will determine no further action is required on the basis of the report submitted, but the people involved wish it to be taken up and a fuller investigation to take place.
Q20Karl McCartney: Going back to something you said before, Mr Cutmore, you answered some questions from one of my colleagues about where we are compared with France and Germany, and perhaps where we ought to be. Can you give some examples of countries that are where we are, and why they are there in the same place we are? Or, if you want to use a football analogy, why they are down in the second division rather than the premiership? Are they there for the same reasons that we are, or are there other reasons?
Nick Cutmore: I would find it hard to give you an illustration of a country that is where the UK is, because the UK has chosen to take a route that almost nobody else has done. That is set out in the ports’ evidence here almost as a suggestion that it is meritorious that we have all these different, multifarious port authorities doing different things. The irony is that the 1987 Act did away with the unifying body that was certifying and examining people to a common standard. In most countries like France and Germany, standards are enacted in national law. Pilotage legislation sets down how everything is going to be done, and that is how it is done.
As to this fragmented arrangement, I cannot put my finger on an example. You could say that in the US every state is different, but the states within the US are so huge and they have a large number of ports within each. They have state pilotage commissions where everything is regulated and there are common entry standards and certification. Everything is set out in chapter and verse. It is very difficult for me to give you an illustration of the free-for-all that you effectively have in this country. It is all the more ironic because many countries modelled their national legislation on what was then the Pilotage Act 1913 and looked to Britain. There were great benefits to Britain because they sent people here to be trained, our colleges took people, and they bought British-built pilot boats. All that has now disappeared because people no longer look to the UK for excellence in pilotage.
Q21Karl McCartney: We have heard that Newhaven, you think, was perhaps at the lower end. Are there any exemplary ports in the UK that are may be setting the standards for the UK-among them, if you like, at a micro rather than a macro level?
Captain Cockrill: At the risk of banging my own drum-
Karl McCartney: Feel free.
Captain Cockrill: Although it has its faults, the Port of London does very well as an example. It is not perfect by any means-where is?-but it’s not a bad job. You can look at other ports around the country. From the point of view of pilot training, Liverpool is a very good example; it has a very good pilotage operation. There are a couple of others where you can say it is okay and it is getting in the right place. It is maybe not there yet, but they are trying very hard to do the right thing.
Q22Karl McCartney: What about Southampton or places like that? What are they like?
Captain Cockrill: I don’t know very much about how Southampton does things, so it would not be appropriate to comment. As far as I understand it, the regime at Haven pilots in Felixstowe is a very good one as well; they seem to take things very seriously and have a proper, structured training process. Milford Haven, where all this started with the Sea Empress, is now one of the best operated ports from a pilotage perspective, without any doubt whatsoever.
Q23Jim Dobbin: You said in your earlier evidence that training in other countries was probably slightly better than here. Do you think that, because of the shortage of pilots, it would be useful to look to importing pilots from other countries?
Captain Cockrill: We don’t see a shortage of pilots as such. We don’t see there being a shortage of pilots. There is a potential, looming shortage of resource for recruitment over the next five to 10 years, but certainly in the UK there are a number of ports recruiting from Europe, not just within the UK. London is a very good example. We have six or seven different nationalities of people working in London, and it is not alone in the UK in having guys from Italy, Poland or wherever in ports.
Q24Jim Dobbin: How do you see the introduction of technology affecting the whole recruitment scheme? Do you think that that would be a benefit or lessen the importance of recruiting?
Captain Cockrill: No, not at all. When you look particularly at closed waters and high-risk areas of port pilotage, the technology coming into shipping is simply a very good tool that enhances the quality of the services the pilot can provide to the ship and within the ship itself, if the equipment is on board the ships in addition to the equipment the pilot might carry with him. It becomes an enhancement of the service already provided or the work that the ship can do itself. If anything, it creates an even bigger workload when you start looking at education and training, because it is something else that you need to understand fully, utilise and be able to work with. The shipping industry at the moment is finding to its cost what happens if you don’t do that properly with electronic chart systems.
Q25Jim Dobbin: We shall be interviewing the Minister shortly. Is there any advice you could give us that we should put to the Minister about how we could improve the situation?
Captain Cockrill: We would like to see a better relationship between the maritime section of the Department for Transport and the practitioners working within the industry in which they are not afraid to raise a question and ask for advice on what the situation is like, what this really means and how this can be improved. At the moment, the only time we get any direct contact is in a formal consultation process. If, after a period of time, we believe-certainly from a UK pilot’s perspective-that we have any sort of problem we might identify, it can take a long time to get any sort of formal meeting. It tends to be on a fairly superficial level. A good place to start would be to get a far better relationship within the working side of the ports industry where ship movements are concerned.
Q26Steve Baker: If I could rewind slightly, I have been to sea often, but never in command of a proper ship that has needed a pilot. Can you confirm that, when the pilot is on board, the master is still in command of the vessel?
Captain Cockrill: The legal position is that when the pilot is on board ship in the UK in a compulsory pilotage area, the master retains command of his ship and is absolutely responsible for everything that goes on in that ship. However, the law requires that the conduct of the navigation of the ship is passed to the pilot. The pilot is not just an adviser; he has the conduct of the navigation of the ship. The duty of the master and his bridge team-his navigation officers, if there is more than just the master available, but quite often it is just the master and the pilot-is to work with the pilot and oversee what the pilot is doing as a crosschecking process, if you like. That is summarising the process very briefly.
Q27Steve Baker: To make sure I have understood, it is therefore the pilot’s job to tell the master where the ship ought to be as it goes into port.
Captain Cockrill: In a very simple way, yes.
Q28Steve Baker: I am just trying to understand your objections in terms of training and qualification to that chap with the RYA yachtmaster certificate. What prevents that person from understanding really clearly where that ship ought to be on its way into port? Is it that he doesn’t understand the ship? I am struggling to understand why his local knowledge about the right place to put that ship is not good enough.
Captain Cockrill: One of the issues of the pilotage profession is that piloting a ship is not simply about navigating it up and down a piece of waterway; it is the whole gamut of different aspects of involvement of ship operations. If you take a port such as Dover, for example, where you have a very short pilotage area from just outside the harbour into the berth, it is very straightforward ship manoeuvring. There is not really too much more for the pilot to be involved in, because everything happens in a very short space of time. If you take a large port like the Humber, the Thames, the Severn estuary and south Wales, a whole lot of stuff is going on involving the operations of the ship, right down to the stability of the ship, that can have an effect on how you work with the ship and what you can and cannot do under certain circumstances. Obviously, the weather plays a part. There are obvious issues about tides and currents, but there is more to it than that, particularly once you get to larger ships. A lot of that is the background knowledge that a senior officer from a merchant ship or also someone from a naval background-it depends-will bring in to the profession to start with. That is the underpinning knowledge that we then feed into local knowledge, the ship-handling bit and everything else that goes into pilotage.
Andrew Linington: A really important point is how the pilot as an individual fits into the dynamics of the bridge. There is a big concentration at the moment within the shipping industry on the concept of bridge resource management, which is something the aviation industry pioneered. It is becoming more and more important within shipping as people recognise the dynamics of how people operate as individuals in confined and very intensive decision-making processes. When the pilot comes on board, he has a matter of minutes to impose himself within that very sophisticated relationship of the hierarchy of the bridge so that he is able to speak with authority that other crew members can instantly assimilate and understand. You can’t get that authority off the shelf; it comes with experience and qualifications.
Steve Baker: That makes it very clear.
Q29Sarah Champion: Captain Cockrill, you talked about the looming shortage of pilots. My ears pricked up at that. Do the other witnesses share that view? What can be done to address it? If there were national standards, would they help or hinder the problem we might have?
Captain Cockrill: Some ports have already started this-again, I come back to London-by recruiting young people and sponsoring them to go to sea to follow a seagoing career in the hope that they will later work within the port environment, maybe in pilotage or as harbour masters, having come back with a professional background from the industry, and knowledge and understanding. That is one way of doing it. Another way of doing it is to look at one of the things the Australians have done, which is to create a structure. How can a layman suddenly get into pilotage? You can, if you follow all these steps over the previous eight years, or whatever it might be, and come through-they have a process like that. A national standard would give organisations that wanted to do one of those two courses-there will be other ways as well-something to work for as a goal or standard. You would look at the standard as the basic professional minimum, if you like, which you would enhance at a local level. That is the work we are trying to push forward with Port Skills and Safety to try to achieve that.
Andrew Linington: I endorse all of that 100%. Mr Dobbin was asking about our messages to the Minister. From where we sit, one of them is the concentration on the maritime skills base. We have to have more resources and commitment to safeguarding what we have got. We have had a 28% decline in the number of UK officers since 1997. That is where we look to the future. On current trends, there will be 30% fewer officers in two decades-those are the pilots of the future-unless we have a proper joined-up strategy for investing in and safeguarding that supply of maritime skills.
Q30Chair: What can you tell us about the current situation in relation to pilotage exemption certificates? Are they being abused?
Andrew Linington: There is certainly evidence of that.
Andrew Linington: People have pointed to the recent MAIB report on the Stena Feronia. There was a contention over a relief master being the bona fide master or chief mate on board that ship. There have been other cases within other MAIB reports where there have been question marks over whether the PEC holder has been the bona fide master or chief mate of the ship.
Q32Chair: Are there any specific companies that anyone could name where there is a problem?
Captain Cockrill: It would be wrong to point a finger at them without evidence today, but certainly in the past in London, we know that Cobelfret as a company has been, shall we say, circumventing the regulations-that would be a polite way of putting it. It has been admonished for doing so and has corrected its actions of the past. Usually, it was a case of putting a British master on to a ship that was probably foreign-owned and manned. He would have the PEC for the ship. They would say he was on board the ship as chief officer or an extra chief officer, which would be permissible under the legislation. When you look into the legislation of the flag state concerned, you find that only that flag state’s nationals are entitled to be in that position. That sort of thing has happened in the not-too-distant past. This is a distant ferry company rather than a short sea Dover-Calais run.
One thing that might crop up-we think this is something that goes on-is that they will book a pilot because they do not have a PEC holder for the ship for a particular trip. This is a ship that runs in and out on a regular basis-there are lots of them-with PEC holders, with which we have no issue. All of a sudden, for whatever reason-probably, a relief, illness, leave or whatever it might be-they require a pilot. The pilot is dispatched from the pilot station to board the ship and, as the ship crosses the port outer limits, there is a declaration of a PEC holder. It raises two questions. We don’t think there is a fraudulent claim; we believe there is a genuine PEC holder on the ship, but we think they are taking a PEC holder off a ship somewhere else and simply moving him to that ship to bring it across rather than paying the charge for a pilot. It is probably perfectly legitimate to do it, but it is a bending of the regulations in order to achieve the maintenance of a PEC.
Q33Chair: Currently, there is a proposal to relax the rules and allow pilotage exemption certificates to be issued to deck officers, not just the master or first mate. Do any of you have any views on that?
Captain Cockrill: That comes back to what I said to Mr Baker earlier. We have no problem with it at all, as long as the deck officer is properly qualified and experienced at chief officer level, if you like.
Q34Chair: Would you want that to be specified in the legislation?
Captain Cockrill: Yes; it needs to be if you are going to extend the number of people who can hold it. At the moment, it is specified as master and first mate. From the perspective of UK pilots, ideally, we do not believe it should be extended; it would be wrong and dangerous to do so, but, if it is to be extended, it ought to be extended to people who are of equivalent qualification and experience under the applicable legislation. We have been talking about foreign-going merchant ships, whether they are near or foreign trade, and STCW, which are the IMO regulations covering the manning of these things. One of the things we had overlooked was that there were quite a few very small ships working in inland waters that qualified for PECs because of particular pilotage legislation in those ports. Somehow that needs to be worked into any expansion of the current criteria.
Q35Chair: I would like to hear from the other witnesses as well on your views as to whether you agree, or how you would like this to be dealt with in terms of the legislation.
Andrew Linington: In terms of legislation, we propose quite explicitly linking it to the IMO certification process under the 2010 Manila amendments. which set down A-II/2, which basically achieves the same thing as the master and chief mate. What you are getting there is international clarity, because it is a benchmark set by the STCW and the IMO. We believe that gave some of the flexibility being aimed at, but within an internationally recognised system.
Q36Chair: Does anyone else want to make any comment on this, particularly in relation to the legislation? That is currently being considered, so it would be helpful if we knew your views on it.
Richard Crease: We would support the position of Nautilus on the basis of some international level of criteria that standardised it across the piece.
Nick Cutmore: From an international perspective, there is already a very liberal regime here for PECs in the United Kingdom. There are probably more PEC holders here than anywhere else on the planet. If you look at somewhere like Rotterdam, a PEC holder cannot enter the port approaches in fog; he is told to anchor off. You don’t have those restrictions in this country. A PEC holder is not regarded as having equivalency in most of Europe, for instance. These gentlemen represent the domestic situation. I don’t want to speak over them, but I put that to you. You already have a very generous and relaxed regime here in respect of PECs. I wonder how far you want to go.
Q37Chair: What is your view?
Nick Cutmore: I was uncomfortable reading about sand dredgers requiring more than two PEC holders. I was thinking that this was nothing to do with pilotage, but about fatigue issues. My mind went back to vessels like the Bowbelle coming up the river here when, on the face of it, the master and chief officer were too fatigued. Therefore, another person, presumably a more junior one, is going to be certified. That is what you are starting to write into the legislation. I could be corrected here and this is slightly outside my area, but I was uncomfortable reading that narrative.
Q38Chair: Should the holders of pilotage exemption certificate be able to speak good English? Does that matter?
Captain Cockrill: It is essential. The problem is that, in the UK at the moment, we don’t have a standard for good English, so how do you define what that is? There is a set of standard navigational phrases under the IMO that would be the barest minimum, and it is something pilots come across every day when working with non-native-English-speaking people on ships. All the time everything is going right they can work absolutely fine with the standard phrases, including over the radio, but it is quite interesting to watch what happens as soon as even the most minor thing starts to go awry. Immediately, they will revert back to whatever is the common language on board the ship, and most of the time that is not English; it will be whatever the predominant language is among the personnel on the ship. Where you have mixed nationalities, that can be really interesting, because you end up with one group speaking only one language and another group speaking only another.
Q39Chair: What is the solution?
Captain Cockrill: In those circumstances, within the groups, they will talk to each other in their native language, and the common language tends to be fairly rudimentary English in one form or another. On board the ship, working among themselves in order to solve the problem, everything will be done in the native tongue, because that is the easiest way to communicate. If you ask whether PEC holders require English language, yes, they do. We come back to national standards. Some sort of standardised level of English that is acceptable, identified and prescribed is long overdue. There is not anything at the moment. It is not even down to each harbour authority; it is pretty much down to the man on the desk on the day that the applicant comes for an examination, assuming he comes for it. We don’t even have a requirement that PEC holders have to be examined; it is only a recommendation.
Chair: Thank you very much for coming to answering questions.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: David Phillips, Chief Harbour Master for the Port of London Authority, UK Major Ports Group, Stephen Bracewell, CEO of Harwich Haven Authority, British Ports Association, Gavin Simmonds, Head, Security and Commercial, Chamber of Shipping, and David Snelson, Maritime Expert, gave evidence.
Q40Chair: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Transport Committee. Could we have your names and organisations, please?
David Snelson: I am David Snelson. I am not representing any organisation, but drawing on my previous experience as an ex-harbour master. I ought to declare two interests. I am nonexec director of the Maritime Coastguard Agency and the port of Milford Haven, but I am not representing them today.
David Phillips: I am David Phillips from the Port of London Authority, but I am also representing the UK Major Ports Group.
Gavin Simmonds: I am Gavin Simmonds from the UK Chamber of Shipping.
Stephen Bracewell: I am Stephen Bracewell, chief executive of Harwich Haven Authority, representing the BPA.
Q41Chair: The Pilots Association has told us that the Government and industry are persistently looking to undermine the value and quality of UK pilotage for short-term commercial expediency. Why do you believe it would think that, and is it right? Mr Snelson, do you have a view on that? You have lots of experience.
David Snelson: Yes, I do. I think that view is somewhat overstated, because certainly the ports with which I am familiar regard pilots as a critical element of their safety management system of navigating ships safely in port. It is in the commercial interests of ports to run a safe port. If you ran an unsafe port as a harbour authority, you would soon lose market share, because people would not want to come into your port. So, keeping a safe port and commercial interests are pretty much aligned. Therefore, from my own observations, I do not think pilotage is regarded as an unfortunate, expensive add-on. Good port authorities regard it as essential.
Q42Chair: That could be something that was seen in the long term, couldn’t it? There could be authorities taking short cuts to save money, and there could be a long-term consequence.
David Snelson: There could be, but not in my experience from what I have seen. The interests of safety and commercial interests are aligned, but perhaps the port associations ought to say something about that.
Q43Chair: Are there any other views on that? Why do you think pilots should hold that view?
Stephen Bracewell: Reading through the evidence beforehand and the questioning from the Committee, I found it difficult to get any hard evidence out of the opinions coming forward. At my home port, we look after a number of facilities, including the port of Felixstowe, which was mentioned by one member of the Committee. We provide pilotage services there. Pilotage since 1988 has undergone a number of changes. It is a very fast-moving world of development in the port industry, recognising pilotage as a very critical service, but also in terms of other associated critical services that make up the total gamut of the Port Marine Safety Code. Pilotage needs, increasingly, to be recognised. I have lots of evidence to demonstrate that the Port Marine Safety Code’s aim to look at safety management systems and integrated port operations is being delivered. Trying to look at pilotage as an individual function is rather out of date. You need to look at the total context of vessel traffic services that actively manage traffic; pilotage services; the surveying, marking and dredging of channels; and combined operations, including towage. It is the absolute totality of port marine operations. The idea that pilotage is seen perhaps as an individual, stand-alone activity denies the whole concept of what the Port Marine Safety Code and actual on-the-ground port marine operations are all about.
Q44Chair: Mr Phillips and Mr Simmonds, do you want to defend yourselves against charges of short-term commercial expediency, putting safety last?
David Phillips: I agree wholeheartedly with the comments that have just been made. I would argue that pilotage is possibly the most important risk control measure that ports have, and many of the other things that Mr Bracewell mentioned are all part of it.
Q45Chair: When did the Maritime and Coastguard Agency last inspect your port?
David Phillips: We were last inspected last year by the port of Dover-we did a mutual check on each other. Officers from the port of Dover spent probably two or three days looking at our safety management system, and then we did the same for Dover. We used a check-off list produced by the MCA, which was drawn from the Port Marine Safety Code and covered a number of aspects of it.
Q46Chair: The two ports did checks on each other.
David Phillips: On each other, yes.
Q47Chair: But it wasn’t a check from the MCA itself.
David Phillips: Not from the MCA, no.
Q48Chair: Mr Simmonds, when was your port inspected by the MCA?
Gavin Simmonds: Perhaps I may speak on behalf of shipowners and operators.
Q49Chair: What is your impression of how often inspections actually take place of any one individual port? Do you know? Do you have that information?
Gavin Simmonds: No; I don’t think we have an opinion about that.
Q50Chair: Do you have any information on the nature and regularity of inspections?
Gavin Simmonds: Not in port areas. That would be outside our area of responsibility. The shipping industry’s principal concern will be for the certification of its ships, and we operate in a highly regulated safety culture and industry. The majority of our maritime certification takes place on an annual basis, so it is done regularly. It is audited both internally and externally on an annual basis.
Q51Jim Dobbin: I take the same line of questioning as I did with the representatives of the pilots. Mr Snelson, basically we are looking at the problem of recruitment of new pilots. Do you have anything to say about that? What is your feeling? Is there a real problem there?
David Snelson: When I was a harbour master about three or four years ago, I raised this issue. I was myself concerned about the board risk register, thinking, "Where are we going to get our new pilots from?" In reality, I found that recruiting was not a great problem-certainly at the moment. There are quite a lot of qualified EU seafarers available and still quite a few qualified British people available. It is difficult to say whether, as the pilots were saying earlier-they might be right-there will be a shortage in five or 10 years’ time, but over a period of five years as harbour master, I never saw a problem with recruitment. I saw lots of well-qualified candidates.
It is important to note that, today, many-in fact all-of the cadet training places at British colleges are completely full and have been for the last couple of years. There are various sectors of the maritime industry, on which Mr Simmonds may be able to comment more, which are drawing a lot of British officers-perhaps the cruise industry in particular. People tend to come ashore from a sea career earlier than they used to, perhaps after only 10 years, rather than the 20 or 30 they would have done some years ago. I get the feeling that the shortage problem is not as bad as it might be, but port authorities perhaps have to keep their eye on training people-if not ab initio, at least sending them to sea, as Captain Cockrill described-and then hope they will come back to work in the ports industry. It is something to be quite careful of.
Q52Jim Dobbin: Is experience at sea absolutely essential?
David Snelson: For the majority of pilotage jobs, yes, it is, but it is horses for courses. You heard the previous witnesses describing some very short acts of pilotage from just outside a breakwater into a port, and then very long acts of pilotage, and different backgrounds could work in those different circumstances.
David Phillips: It is important to understand that the act of pilotage is a command function. To exercise command at sea requires a measure of experience that will come from sea experience. It is hard to imagine many circumstances where sea experience would not be required.
Q53Jim Dobbin: If I can turn now to Mr Bracewell and Mr Phillips specifically, shipowners have been looking at cutting costs to a certain extent, as we all are at the present time, possibly by employing foreign crews. We are looking at spots like the Philippines. Is that your view? Are you looking to recruit pilots from these areas for the same reason?
Stephen Bracewell: We are not at the moment. We are fortunate enough-I say "fortunate enough"; but fortune happens by chance. If you plan properly and promote your industry correctly, you should be able to attract the sort of people you want to see coming in. At the moment, at Harwich Haven Authority, we have 30 authorised pilots and a waiting list of people who want to come and work for us. Part of that is the attraction of the dynamics of the harbour we operate. It contains a number of the largest facilities in the UK, handling the largest ships, and people get reward and motivation by being able to do that.
I was fortunate enough to be asked by a previous Minister, Mike Penning, to sit on the independent review panel that looked at funding for maritime skills, particularly seafarer training, at a time when there was a prospect that funding would be withdrawn. It had already been cut back by 25% under the review. We managed to make a very strong case, which he acknowledged. Not only did they withdraw that money, but they made a commitment to maintain it at £12.5 million for the remainder of the Parliament, which was three years at the time.
The basis of it is that the training of seafarers, particularly UK officers, is important in a wide number of maritime aspects. You can look at the legal world, insurance and finance. All of it is related to ports and shipping. They have a need for experienced seafarers who have been in that industry and have come from a sea training background into the maritime sector. The same applies no less-in fact even more importantly-to ports, and not just with pilots but harbour masters, vessel traffic services and even perhaps in my own case. I came from a seafaring background. I was at sea for a number of years. I was senior master for five years before I came ashore and went into the oil and gas business. There are a number of demonstrations on this panel that these are credentials that can stand the industry in very good stead, if properly promoted and funded.
Q54Jim Dobbin: Looking to the future, do you think there may be a time when you will have to look for foreign crews?
Stephen Bracewell: If so, it is certainly a crystal ball that I would not like to put a date on, that’s for sure. One of the questions was about how other countries go about this. There is no doubt that, globally, the majority of recruitment into the ports industry, looking at both pilotage and harbour masters, comes from the small traditional route that we tend to follow in the UK, but there are some exceptions. In my own time, as both a seafarer and ship’s master, I came across a number of countries and locations, notably north America-the USA. I am not suggesting we go down this route, but time might dictate that this is something we need to look at. Traditionally, Mississippi river pilots have handed this down from father to son to son to son to son. Many of those learned their trade on the river, so it is not impossible, but while we have the ability to draw skilled personnel from an existing maritime structure, that will stand us in good stead for some time.
Q55Iain Stewart: I am just wondering what statistics and information you collect about incidents or near misses in your ports.
David Phillips: We collect figures on incidents and near misses, and they are analysed to look for trends and also improvements. All ports are required to maintain those statistics within the Port Marine Safety Code and also to use them.
Q56Iain Stewart: Is it supervised by the MCA, or is it done just by you within each port?
David Phillips: To be frank, it is done internally. The UKMPG has begun an initiative to try to pull it together so that it is more nationally recognised. There is room for improvement in terms of having a national database, if you like, for marine accidents and statistics. For example, the MIAB doesn’t investigate all accidents, so from a national perspective, there is room for improvement.
Q57Chair: What do you mean when you say it doesn’t investigate all accidents?
David Phillips: If an accident happens, the port will always start an investigation, and then the MCA will take a decision with the resources it has about whether it is going to do a preliminary or full investigation, and how far it is going to take that. The port will always do an investigation of any accident. The more serious accidents, if they involve fatalities or passengers-that kind of thing-the MIAB will pick up.
Q58Iain Stewart: Investigating after an accident is one thing. Should there not be an amber light warning system if a port is registering a number of near misses? We heard examples from the previous panel about ports that they think are performing well, but if for some reason the performance of a port started to slip, what should be the mechanism where that warning sign should be spotted and action taken?
David Phillips: That should come about through the ports’ own processes. For example, within their safety management system, they should be looking at their statistics-they should be examined by the safety management team within the port. There should also be a designated person. Under the Port Marine Safety Code, each port is required to have a designated person who reports directly to the board and therefore can, if you like, leapfrog the harbour master and go directly to the board. All those mechanisms should ensure that accidents are reported honestly and objectively, with the results properly analysed.
Q59Iain Stewart: Does anyone else have an opinion about this?
Gavin Simmonds: May I comment on behalf of the ship operators, because they have exactly the same sort of system? On board each ship, there will be a certificated international safety management system. That will be certificated each year, but it is a management system that requires continual self-improvement and internal auditing. In the case of a repeated incident occurring, say in a specific harbour area, the shipping company’s system of analysis would pick that up. If they missed it, either internal or external auditors would pick it up. It is a closed-loop system, so you would want to see those risks managed and reduced-preferably managed out. That is normally done in cooperation with the relevant harbour authority.
Q60Chair: Mr Simmonds, is there any outside check on how that is dealt with and whether what is found is acted upon?
Gavin Simmonds: I risk repeating myself. I can comment only on the management systems that we operate on board the ship. It may be quite an interesting area to explore, though not now.
Q61Chair: We are interested in knowing about safety issues. Since concerns have been expressed about possible short-term commercial considerations of individual companies, the issue of independence in assessing safety issues and acting on problems is of great importance to us. That is why I am asking you this question. Is your association concerned about this or not?
Gavin Simmonds: No; we have no evidence that makes us concerned about this. When we are talking about UK shipping, I have to make it clear that the vast majority of our ships are trading internationally. The ones that will trade domestically into UK ports are numerous, presumably numbered in thousands a year. Most of those on scheduled routine port calls would have total transparency with the ports that they are using and would relate any safety matters to them. I am not sure there is any mechanism that allows for a consolidated approach across both the port and the ship safety record.
David Snelson: I want to flesh out a little more the business of checks and whether ports are doing things properly. There are three methods of checking that I am aware of. One is the MCA health check that has already been presented to you. That will not happen that frequently because of resources. The second is that which Mr Phillips described, which is a peer review from another port. The third is to bring in an outside expert to do a check. When I first became a harbour master, I wanted to know in my first year whether I had inherited a good safety management system, so I persuaded the chief executive to pay for an outside check. It would be wrong to go away with the impression that ports don’t get checked by one body or another; they do.
To come to the business of analysing incidents and so on, it would be quite common for ports to categorise their incidents. Is it leisure navigators with a trend up or down? Is it PEC holders? Is it pilots? Is it STCW, which are the deep sea certificates? Trend analysis over 10 years will reveal different categories of navigators who may be having problems, or their vessels that may be having problems, as will looking at Marine Accident Investigation Branch reports that are applicable to your port, as well as a learning process. A lot goes on in ports to record, categorise and learn from incidents.
Q62Steve Baker: The pilots from whom we heard earlier explained the relationship between the master and pilot. Could you confirm the notion that a pilot will need to assert himself on the bridge within a few minutes?
David Snelson: Yes, absolutely; he takes charge of the conduct of the vessel, but the master remains in command and can override the pilot if he is concerned.
Q63Steve Baker: The particular ability of pilots to assert themselves on the bridge seems to me a very individual talent.
David Phillips: It certainly is an individual talent. Not only has the pilot to assert himself, but he has to gain the confidence of the master and also the officers on the bridge. If there are language issues and things like that, that can be very difficult. You are absolutely right that it relies very much on the individual character of the pilot and his experience.
Q64Steve Baker: We also heard earlier how circumstances clearly varied between different ports. Dover was mentioned as being very different from other ports. With that in mind, what are the advantages of the current system for authorising pilots with different requirements in different ports, or do you think there should be greater standardisation? The reason I ask in these terms is that it all seems to be very individual to particular ports and pilots.
Stephen Bracewell: I don’t think you could have described it better if you asked me to do it-it really is that. The national occupational standards are excellent. They were raised in 2000 and were refreshed very recently. Chair, you might recall that, when we did a relaunch of the Port Marine Safety Code, I made a strong commitment to you and the Minister at the time, Mr Clark, that we had more work to do in revisiting the national occupational standards. We have now delivered those in terms of harbour masters and marine pilots, but the idea that the national occupational standard then goes on to deliver a standard of pilotage that applies to every single port is somewhat difficult to contextualise, not least because very few ports are the same.
If you look at the diversity of the harbour that we are fortunate to have, at the extreme end-or large end, if you like-we handle the largest container vessels afloat in a very busy harbour. At the other end of the scheme, but no less important, we have the small port of Mistley, where we struggle to get vessels in on very shallow water drafts that sit on the bottom when the tide goes out. The skills required to do that are very diverse. If you are a port that has only one end of that spectrum-probably lots of ports are at the lower end-you will not put the effort into training and bringing a standard of pilot to that regime that is appropriate only at the higher end where you handle large vessels, be it container vessels, bulk carriers or tankers, in a geography that is just as diverse as is the range of vessels you can handle. It has to be left to the competent harbour authority to apply to its own business the standards raised at a national occupational level and apply those appropriately to the geography and type of vessels and trade they handle in their specific areas.
David Snelson: I absolutely agree that the national occupational standards have been a really big improvement, but there is one improvement that could be made to the documentation. One matter you heard the earlier witnesses talking about was the referencing of the International Maritime Organisation’s standards on pilotage. If you are an ab initio harbour master, you read the Port Marine Safety Code, which takes you to the guide to good practice. That guide takes you to the national occupational standards, and those standards will take you to the IMO standard. The next time the Port Marine Safety Code is rewritten, referencing the IMO standards at least there, or in the guide to good practice, would be an improvement. A lot of the Port Marine Safety Code is just putting together what is already national legislation. If you read the page and a half of footnotes to the Port Marine Safety Code, they are all national legislation.
Q65Chair: Why should that code be voluntary rather than statutory? Would anyone like to tell me briefly?
Stephen Bracewell: I would say the challenge of making it mandatory could take a decade as a minimum, but at the end of it, I don’t think it would improve safety. There is lots of hard evidence, unfortunately, that in other sectors, where regulation is mandated, it does not in itself deliver safety.
Q66Chair: I am talking about this sector. Does anybody want to add to that? I just want brief answers.
David Phillips: As the Port Marine Safety Code is constructed at the moment, the code itself is run by the DFT, and the guide to good practice is run by the MCA. The code is the standard by which everyone expects that we must operate our ports, and then the guide to good practice is dealt with at a working level through the MCA, which means that it is very responsive and dynamic, it can respond to accidents that have happened and so on. In terms of compliance, there is a change to the Port Marine Safety Code going through right now. Previously, ports had to-
Q67Chair: But why isn’t this statutory? That is the question.
David Phillips: I don’t see the need for it to become statutory.
David Phillips: Because I think the voluntary method is working at the moment and, also, a port would be in a very poor position if it used the fact that it was not statutory as an excuse for not complying. It is very clearly the standard by which we are expected to perform and, therefore, it is binding in practice.
Q69Chair: Why shouldn’t it be statutory if it is binding in practice? What is the problem?
David Phillips: Well-
David Snelson: I would say it is a question of whether the Government want to put the resource into it because, if you make it statutory, you are then going to have compliance-
Q70Chair: That is an issue for the Government. I am asking all of you as operators why it is not statutory. Mr Simmonds, why shouldn’t it be statutory?
Stephen Bracewell: I don’t believe that it will deliver anything better than what is already in place.
Q71Chair: You have given me your comments, Mr Bracewell. I am asking Mr Simmonds now why it shouldn’t be statutory. You have all fought against it.
Gavin Simmonds: There is a little history here, which, as I have mentioned before-
Q72Chair: Apart from the history, why shouldn’t it be statutory?
Gavin Simmonds: Because on board ships, where we have introduced the statutory ISM code, we found in some cases many years ago that there were two systems: an actual operating system; and a separate certification and safety system running underneath. The theory of the Port Marine Safety Code was that you brought them together and made sure the voluntary code was the system being used in ports. There are faults when you try to certificate a system, and the Port Marine Safety Code was supposed to be an organic code. The evidence and safety theory behind is that it is growing and improving all the time.
Q73Chair: I am not asking about the theory; I am asking about the practice. Why shouldn’t it be statutory?
Gavin Simmonds: In that case because it did not start off as being statutory, and it would be very difficult to make it statutory in retrospect.
Chair: We are talking about the future, not "in retrospect".
Q74Sarah Champion: I have a simple question. Mr Cutmore argued very persuasively that UK standards were falling against the rest of the world. Is that something you all recognise?
David Snelson: I don’t think Mr Cutmore argued they were falling; he said they were very different, in that there is not the statutory provision and so on.
Q75Sarah Champion: I think he was saying that we were falling behind, whereas we had been the world leader and we were not any more-we are now in the second division.
David Snelson: That is going back to 1913 or whatever. I think you have to look at the evidence. Are there lots of accidents in ports caused by low standards in safety management systems or pilotage? The answer is no. Therefore, the fact that there are not major accidents, and lots of them, means that the system must be working. Yes, it may appear counter-intuitive that it is not statutory, but the system works. There is no reason it shouldn’t be statutory. There isn’t a reason not to make it statutory; it is just that the current system works, in my view.
Stephen Bracewell: Also, you will find it difficult anywhere else in the world to find and demonstrate this, but in this country we have documented national occupational standards, and it is the only place in the world where there is a documented port marine safety code. That sounds to me at odds with a suggestion that we are slipping behind the rest of the world. I believe strongly that in many respects we are leading, and I would like to see the sensibility of other nations perhaps adopting the very same approach that we have in this country with a port marine safety code.
Q76Chair: Why should it be necessary to relax the rules on who can apply for a pilotage exemption certificate? Can any of you give me any example of why that should be done?
David Phillips: I honestly don’t know. The existing rule where it is master and mate is fine.
Gavin Simmonds: Shall I come in, because it is probably the shipping industry that has been pushing for this for a long time, and there is a certain amount of misunderstanding? We are not so much arguing for a relaxation of the existing rules, because those work very well. We think that the rules need to be amended and the terminology improved. We need to be absolutely clear and unambiguous about who is able to obtain a PEC.
Q77Chair: If you don’t want it to be changed, Mr Simmonds, is it incorrect that you wish to enable any deck officer to be able to apply for a certificate?
Gavin Simmonds: I think that is an improvement.
Q78Chair: So you do want change. You are saying things that are not quite the same. You are saying it works well and it should not be changed.
Gavin Simmonds: Yes. I understand there are two distinct types of marine traffic affected by this. For major international trading vessels, UK company standards will require, as you probably heard this afternoon, an STCW-22 standard for anyone undergoing a pilot exemption certificate. That is the provision in both the 1987 Act and the majority of UK international shipping companies. On domestic ferries, you do not have international standards; you have regional and national standards, often handed down through a system of boatmen’s licences. To introduce STCW, an international standard, for domestic ferries would exclude a number of existing seafarers carrying out their duties on board. It is only a small number, but nevertheless it is an important number of domestic ferries on the Clyde and in the Solent. Although it is only a handful, those individuals are not STCW-qualified, and it would be most unreasonable to deprive them of their existing PECs and require them to become qualified to an international standard. There is a very small group of domestic ferry operators whose situation would be improved.
At the other end of the scale, I have talked about international ships and major short sea ferries, which we are all familiar with. Their normal company standard, without exception, is 22: master and first mate. However, a lot of our management systems also have the role of chief officer, who should be able to have a PEC because he would be more senior to a first mate.
To come back to the structural problem of our industry, which other people referred to earlier, we have a very serious emerging shortage of senior officers. The relaxation in the provision of the Bill is designed to enable some companies to train their officers early. At the moment, they are prevented from training their people and submitting them for PEC examinations until they are at first mate standard. That is quite demoralising for young seafarers who want to get on quickly, progress up the ladder in the company and be identified for future promotion and command opportunities. So this small word is holding them back and proving to be a disincentive. It can take up to five years for an individual officer to train, earn and pass his PEC. I don’t think there should be a major problem in encouraging certain individuals to be allowed to start earlier.
Q79Chair: Mr Snelson, in your written evidence you say that widening PEC eligibility risks reducing standards. Do you feel that very strongly?
David Snelson: No, I don’t feel that very strongly. Widening PEC eligibility is an "on the one hand and on the other". There is a case for it. What has often been cited are the ships on short runs where the master and mate can get fatigued. Take a ship that is going from Tilbury to Zeebrugge, for instance. The two people who can have a PEC under that system will get pretty tired. If you widen it, on the one hand it would improve safety, but the way in which you widen it could undermine safety. You would have to be very careful about how it is described in the new legislation.
Q80Chair: Have you got any ideas about what should be put in legislation? This issue is currently being considered.
David Snelson: The Marine Navigation Bill has been amended on its way to the House of Lords to include the words "senior navigating officer". I still don’t think that ties it down enough. If there is to be a third person allowed under the Bill, that person has to be qualified and to have a master’s or first mate’s certificate. Interestingly, there is coherence here. Earlier you heard the Pilots Association say they would rather it was not relaxed, but if it was, the person should be qualified to master or mate standard. If you look at the UK harbour masters’ open letter to the sponsor of the Marine Navigation Bill, it says exactly the same: we would rather it was not relaxed, but, if it was, it should have those provisos. If there is to be relaxation-and there is a case-it has to be very carefully prescribed in legislation; otherwise, people will run rings round it and the ports will have great difficulty in checking whether the third person really does have the experience and qualifications to have conduct of a ship.
Stephen Bracewell: If I may, I disagree with that. Changing this eligibility in our context-we have first-hand experience of this-does nothing more than add a few people to the list of people who can knock on the door and ask to start the process of being assessed and examined. The actual process of being assessed and examined is core to the issuance of a PEC. Nobody I am aware of, unless there has been some misunderstanding, is suggesting diluting that process. That process needs to be robust and managed by the competent harbour authority. They are not proposing to dilute the standards they apply by which they will assess and examine whoever is allowed to knock on that door.
Quite frankly, I don’t accept this idea that somebody with a lower level of certificate or some lesser experience is going to allow a harbour authority to lessen the standards by which they assess and examine people. We are not going to do it. This will make no difference to the standard of PEC holder who pops out at the exit door and says, "You have successfully completed this." It might increase the number of people who don’t complete the process because partway through they have not been able to demonstrate the capabilities required, but in time we will find out.
Q81Jim Dobbin: We are meeting the Minister shortly. Simply to be consistent, is there any message you would like us to give the Minister, particularly to improve the situation as regards pilotage?
Stephen Bracewell: I certainly have something, if I may, Chair. It is an ask of both the Minister and this Committee. Chair, you might recall, when we were doing the refresh of the Port Marine Safety Code, it was on my watch when I was chairman of both the BPA and Ports Skills and Safety, which were heavily involved in working with others on a very good collaborative piece of work to deliver that. It is absolutely right to place on harbour authorities high expectations to deliver on safety. The Port Marine Safety Code, the VTS directive and Pilotage Act are all good evidence of the tools that we have to deliver those.
Q82Chair: What should we be saying to the Minister?
Stephen Bracewell: Powers of direction are vital. If you want us to deliver safety, give us the tools to do it in as close and unfettered a way as possible. I don’t believe that this idea that is developing that, yes, you can ask and request to have these powers but you have to agree to arbitration on safety, is, quite frankly, good for the ports industry. If you want us to deliver safety, give us the unfettered tools to do it, and this Committee and the Minister need to pursue that.
Q83Chair: Are there any other ideas? I think we have got quite a few ideas from what we have heard this afternoon.
David Phillips: I would ask that ports are required to use a risk-based method in deciding on PECs, pilotage and so on. What is the need for this relaxation? I have not seen any risk-based evidence to suggest that this is necessary or a good thing. Is there any underpinning risk assessment to support the extension of PECs to deck officers or senior navigating officers, because I have not seen it?
Chair: That is a good point. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for coming to answer our questions.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, and Thomas Barry, Deputy Director, Maritime Safety and Environment, Department for Transport, gave evidence.
Chair: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. I am sorry we are a little later than anticipated, Minister, so I hope you can stay for some important questions.
We must suspend the Committee, and we will try to get back in 10 minutes.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Q84Chair: Minister, could you tell us whether there has been any risk assessment underlying the proposals to extend eligibility for pilot exemption certificates?
Stephen Hammond: First, thank you, Chair. I hope that the Committee will have seen the written evidence I have supplied, and in particular paragraphs 7 to 16, which deal in depth with the Government’s view on this matter. There has not been a risk assessment because there is no need for it. Nothing in the proposals in this Bill changes any of the safety standards or requirements on the competent harbour authority. There is no change in standards; there is a change in conditions. The competent harbour authority can now extend a pilotage exemption certificate to those people who are competent and have the required local experience and local knowledge, and that is for them to decide.
Q85Chair: But the port safety code is voluntary rather than mandatory, isn’t it? Don’t you feel any concern that, although your best intention is to maintain safety standards, the changes might in fact jeopardise those?
Stephen Hammond: No. If anything, the proposals in this Bill enhance safety for one very clear reason: competent harbour authorities will have their power extended to take away exemption certificates immediately, rather than as now, where if someone is under investigation, that exemption certificate continues. It is absolutely clear to me that this Bill is improving rather than diminishing safety.
The port safety code, which we will be publishing on the website within the next day, covers myriad operations and operational requirements, so a lot of that will be very difficult to deal with via legislation. More importantly, in drawing this up, we have consistently ensured that we have consulted all the various interests. It would seem to me to be wrong to have a mandatory system when the current non-mandatory one is working perfectly well.
Q86Chair: If we look more closely at safety and how it could be supervised, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency says it can only afford to do four what it calls "health checks" a year because of resource issues. That would mean that a port would be checked once every 45 years, if we took that literally. That can’t give the reassurance, can it, that safety is being maintained?
Stephen Hammond: Let’s not confuse what is happening with pilotage and safety. I assume you are referring to the safety of ships being navigated into harbour.
Q87Chair: There are a number of areas of safety, and that is one of them. There are safety issues to do with what happens within the harbour and ships coming into it. Questions have been raised in the past about the accuracy of the statistics provided, how they are put together and what lessons might be drawn from them. The MCA tells us that it can afford only four checks a year. In your statement, you make a number of comments about that, but I am just asking whether you feel reassured that that is going to deal with all safety issues.
Stephen Hammond: First, for the record, I think the Marine Navigation (No. 2) Bill enhances safety, and I have made that point. My written evidence is the same as I am giving now. Although the MCA has stated that, it does not prevent other health checks being done by individual operators of ports. Secondly, the obligations on competent harbour authorities do not change.
Thomas Barry: I think it is fair to say that the process of the Port Marine Safety Code is developing, and we are finessing that process over the years. Mr Bracewell said that he was involved in the first iteration. The Minister has already mentioned that we have a cross-government and cross-industry group responsible for the code. It is called the Port Marine Safety Code steering group, on which there are representatives from the MCA, the unions, the pilots associations, who were here earlier this afternoon, and Government. We are conscious that we want to see the level of adherence to the code, and we are proposing that, when the Minister writes to the competent harbour authorities this week, we will introduce a new mechanism, which is slightly more proactive, where we recommend that the competent harbour authorities liaise with and contact the Maritime Coastguard Agency about their level of adherence to the code. So we are finessing, improving and looking at how we get the best information out of this process.
Q88Chair: Would this be a recommendation?
Stephen Hammond: That is covered in my evidence. To be absolutely clear, the port safety code, which I will be publishing on the website within the next day, will replace what was previously a duty on the competent harbour authorities. They have just received an MCA mailshot. They will now have to write to the MCA every three years stating that they adhere to the code, so extra protection is being put in.
Q89Chair: That will be a requirement.
Stephen Hammond: Yes, it will.
Q90Iain Stewart: One of the earlier witnesses contrasted the UK’s system with those in other countries and suggested that we might look to countries like Canada and Australia and adopt some of their practices. Is that something you have done or would look to do?
Stephen Hammond: We will always look at anything that might enhance safety, but be clear that we have some of the best safety records of anywhere in the world. What is being proposed by this Bill in terms of maritime pilotage does not change any of the safety requirements. It is absolutely clear that the obligations on the competent harbour authority do not change, and that is important.
Thomas Barry: In my capacity as the Minister’s maritime adviser, I sit on various international forums in Brussels and Lisbon, where the European Commission’s Maritime Safety Agency sits. I meet other international players regularly. I can safely say that in my year or so in this post, the issue of pilotage has not been raised in those international groups. They are more concerned about greenhouse gas emissions from ships-many of those points will be familiar to you-but pilotage has not been raised once. However, as a key player in these groups, we have the capacity to influence the agenda and tease out various subjects, and it is within my power to raise the profile of pilotage, if people giving evidence and this Committee think it is worth raising by the UK in these forums.
Q91Chair: The pilots associations to which we spoke earlier this afternoon did not seem to express much confidence in the Department for Transport. Why do you think that would be, and what can be done to improve the situation?
Stephen Hammond: I am surprised and disappointed by that. Sheryll Murray MP is the sponsor of this particular Bill, and therefore it is appropriate that the meetings with the Pilots Association have been held with her. There have been DFT officials at those. Sheryll Murray has met Captain Cockrill of the UK Maritime Pilots Association, which is a member of the Port Marine Safety Code steering group, which meets every six months. I understand that it has also corresponded extensively with not only Sheryll Murray, but my Department. We sought its views on the EU PEC survey, particularly in relation to operational matters. I think that is an unfair representation of the relationship between us and the UK Maritime Pilots Association. It has regular dialogue with the Department.
Q92Chair: As a new Minister, how do you set out to find out more about pilotage issues for your own knowledge?
Stephen Hammond: In terms of this particular matter, as I said to you at a previous hearing, safety is key and must be the overriding priority for the Minister when looking at that. I have been able to take advice. I have also been able to read documentation and ideas submitted by a number of organisations. I read letters from the Pilots Association prior to my understanding of what this Bill would do. What is key is that it does not change any of the safety standards or obligations on the competent harbour authorities. It changes one condition, which would allow deck officers to have a pilotage exemption certificate on a particular ship in a particular harbour for one year initially, which is the same as the requirement. It is also absolutely incumbent upon the harbour authority to make sure that the people who apply for that certificate, whether they be first mate, master or deck officer, comply with that requirement.
Q93Chair: Are you confident that they will do that?
Stephen Hammond: It would be an extraordinary situation, and I can’t believe there would be a competent harbour authority anywhere in the country that would issue a certificate to someone who was not competent. The risks to safety and other users of that harbour, and the risks of redress being sought against them, are great. It is inconceivable that that would happen.
Q94Chair: Are you setting up any system to ensure that does not happen? You clearly have a very strong view that it would not happen, but is there any system in place?
Stephen Hammond: In terms of who is monitoring that, it is for the harbour authorities to ensure they do that properly. The Department for Transport has the power to revoke a harbour authority’s licence.
Q95Chair: So you would see that as a sanction, should it be necessary.
Stephen Hammond: I would, should it be necessary.
Q96Chair: Speaking more generally about safety issues, the Department sent the Committee a list of key MAIB investigations. Can you tell us what conclusions you came to from those and what changes, if any, you made in response to those accidents?
Stephen Hammond: I have had the chance to visit the Marine Accident Investigation Branch in Southampton and understand how its operations work and how it undertakes reviews of accidents. In terms of the list we presented to your inquiry, we tried to ensure that what we provided was a list of incidents that might be most relevant to it. All these incidents took place prior to the Bill. I tried to show that there were a number of localised difficulties that pilots face. I also tried to ensure that it would show a wide range of incidents. I took from it that the entrustment of pilotage provisions to the competent harbour authorities shows that they are in place, doing the job they should do, and that nothing in this Bill legitimises any of the factors identified by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch as contributing to an accident.
Q97Chair: Speaking generally, not purely in terms of the Bill, has Government policy on pilotage changed to reflect issues that have been identified by the investigations?
Stephen Hammond: When we have looked at the investigations, we have ensured that, if there is a need to. For instance, in one or two of the reports there have been recommendations by the MAIB. I have looked at those. Clearly, on a number of occasions, it shows that the competent harbour authorities are the right people to manage the pilotage and to consider what is safe and what is most appropriate for their waters. Part of that is the very localised nature of a number of the conditions. That is why an exemption certificate is only for a particular harbour on a particular ship.
Thomas Barry: From a policy perspective, in the wider consideration by the chief inspector of MAIB of pilotage, he has not recommended any changes to the pilotage legislation in the form of the Pilotage Act 1987.
Q98Chair: So no change is being taken forward by the Department in any area in respect of those reports.
Thomas Barry: There are recommendations, but they are generally more local issues to be discussed and considered by competent harbour authorities.
Q99Chair: How are the Government implementing A.960-the International Maritime Organisation’s resolution on the training and certification of pilots?
Thomas Barry: IMO resolution A.960 on the training, certification and operational procedures for maritime pilots, other than deep sea pilots, recommends to competent harbour authorities standards on training and certification. It is not for the UK Government to enforce; it is for competent harbour authorities. Section 1.3 of the recommendation says that the UK Government should encourage competent harbour authorities in relation to the application of these standards. I think Mr Snelson earlier this afternoon suggested that a desirable way forward would be to include a reference to the IMO resolution in the next iteration of the Port Marine Safety Code, and that is something we can take forward without any problems.
Q100Chair: You are still in support of that resolution.
Stephen Hammond: Absolutely. To be absolutely clear, the Bill is fully compliant with that code as well.
Q101Chair: We have heard concerns today as well about the likely shortage of candidates to become pilots as the current generation retires. Do you share those concerns?
Stephen Hammond: When we last looked at the Bill there were some issues about whether there would be enough pilots or too many. Clearly, this Bill would ensure that there are enough competent people, and more, to be able to use and pilot ships into harbours.
Q102Chair: Would you have any concerns about ports recruiting suitably qualified foreign seafarers to become pilots?
Stephen Hammond: The issue there, again, would be for the competent harbour authority to ensure that the person has the local experience and knowledge. There may well be some issues that competent harbour authorities may wish to raise. It would be for them to raise those issues. I guess the concerns would be about the particular navigational issues surrounding a harbour and, potentially, language issues but, again, it is for the competent harbour authority to ensure that it only issues pilotage exemption certificates to those people who would be competent to have them.
Thomas Barry: Section 8(1)(b) of the Pilotage Act 1987 places a duty on competent harbour authorities to consider whether knowledge of English would be a requirement in consideration of a pilot application.
Q103Chair: Earlier, Mr Barry referred to discussions in the European Commission on pilotage issues. Is the Department pursuing any particular policy through European institutions in relation to pilotage?
Stephen Hammond: No. As Mr Barry said, there are a number of issues we are pursuing actively on which there have been a number of round tables with the industry, but pilotage is not one of them.
Q104Chair: Are there any other that might relate to the issues we are talking about today?
Thomas Barry: Not that I can think of.
Stephen Hammond: The overwhelming concern at the moment in terms of the EU is work on emissions and the sulphur directive.
Q105Chair: Minister, in a lot of your responses, you have stressed the importance of the competent harbour authority dealing with issues. Do you see any significant role for your Department, or are you content to delegate to the individual authorities?
Stephen Hammond: The Department has one significant role that I have already spoken about: the power to revoke the licence. I have said a number of times, and will stress again, that, because of the very localised nature of what we are discussing, and the very significant localised element of the experience and knowledge, it is absolutely appropriate that the competent harbour authority does that, rather than the Department for Transport. The Department for Transport’s role should be that if a competent harbour authority fails to meet its obligations, only at that stage should it look to take some action.
Q106Steve Baker: Roughly, what proportion of ports are owned as private property?
Thomas Barry: Do you mean the breakdown between private ports and trust ports?
Q107Steve Baker: I just do not know. Are ports mostly private property, or is it about a tenth?
Stephen Hammond: I will undertake to write to you, Mr Baker, but ports are predominantly private property.
Q108Steve Baker: Ships are privately owned and go into privately-owned ports. We seem to be questioning whether there is a role for the Department for Transport in what is essentially a private matter, with the obvious exception of the public damage that would arise from environmental issues, which are heavily regulated.
Stephen Hammond: The Department for Transport has set the policy to ensure safety, and that is the key point.
Thomas Barry: What is important is that, on the quayside, health and safety legislation applies. Ships trading both domestically and internationally are generally required to meet standards set down by the International Maritime Organisation.
Q109Steve Baker: Also, earlier, we were talking about whether some of the guidance should be on a statutory basis, but it seems to me that, on the whole, this system works perfectly well under private ownership, with private risk management and private insurance. Is all that correct?
Stephen Hammond: Yes.
Steve Baker: Marvellous.
Q110Chair: Finally, could you tell me whether the Department has ever revoked a licence from a competent harbour authority?
Thomas Barry: I am not aware. I will check.
Stephen Hammond: I am certainly not aware of it. I am being reliably informed that the answer is no.
Chair: If there are no other questions, thank you very much.