Inadequate Master / Pilot Exchange

Inadequate Master / Pilot Exchange


In recent months, CHIRP has received three reports where the Master/Pilot information Exchange was less than fully comprehensive.


What the reporter told us (1):

During the Master/Pilot Information Exchange, (MPX), the Master mentioned some defects which in his opinion were minor, of no concern and would have no effect on the inward pilotage. Over and above these, I observed that the Rate of Turn Indicator was not functioning, the radars were on unstabilised head up display with no heading indication, and all analogue gyro repeaters I checked were not working. The helmsman was using a digital display on the console.


When asked about the faults, the master said he had requested a technician to attend the vessel on arrival alongside. All these defects could delay the vessel’s arrival because the pilot can decide if it is only safe to bring the ship in to port in daylight and fair weather. The defects should have been declared in advance and highlighted during the MPX.


What the reporter told us (2):

Upon entering the swing basin, we attempted to kick the engine astern to stop the headway from a speed of 3.5 knots. However, the main engine failed to start after two attempts, and so we used the tugs to arrest the headway. Once stopped the main engine was tested ahead and astern and it worked correctly. The berthing continued without further incident.


After the ship was safely berthed, the master informed me that the engine failed because the speed was too high. The master also commented that the speed must be below 3 knots for the engine to start astern. The speed was 3.5 knots when the attempted astern function failed. I advised the Master that this was very important information for the pilot to know and that he must inform pilots of this in the future. This piece of information should have been exchanged during the MPX since it was critical to the success of the manoeuvre.


What the reporter told us (3):

I was piloting an outbound vessel and when safely in the channel a course to steer was given, at which point the rudder angle indicator went hard to starboard. I immediately ordered midships but there was no change in the position of the indicator. It was quickly determined that the rudder angle indicator was not working. The vessel in fact responded correctly to helm,  so I continued the transit and had tugs escort the vessel out.


Subsequently from next port: Departing the berth I found both bridge wing rudder angle indicators out of order (despite a similar problem at the previous port). The starboard bridge wing indicator was stuck at ‘hard over’ and the port bridge wing indicator was stuck at Port 20°. The indicator in the wheelhouse worked properly during the pilotage. During the MPX, the master had not mentioned these defects at all.


CHIRP Comment:

The Maritime Advisory Board members raised the following points:


  • The pilot card as required by IMO Res A601(15) should be completed fully and accurately ready to present to the pilot upon boarding. The completing of the pilot card is frequently assigned to a junior bridge watchkeeper or cadet, and this is quite acceptable provided the completed form is assiduously checked by the master before it is presented to the pilot.
  • Why are ships unwilling to report defects? Failure to communicate defects reflects badly on the ship’s staff, the management, owners and operators. One purpose of the ISM Code which combines both SOLAS and the STCW Convention is to deal with issues like this.
  • The master has an obligation to report defects, deficiencies and anomalies that impinge upon the operability of the vessel to the shore management. Such reports of deficiencies should be thoroughly followed up to a satisfactory closure (defect rectified with measures in place to prevent reoccurrence).
  • The pilot may also have an obligation to report defects, deficiencies and anomalies that impinge upon the operability of the vessel to the port authorities.
  • Non-disclosed defects can raise suspicion and act as a trigger for a Port State Control visit.
  • The shipping industry should listen to and learn from other industries, such as aviation , where an open disclosure policy is embraced.


Arrival at, berthing in and sailing from a port are potentially the most hazardous parts of a voyage. Vessels must enter  and operate in shallow and confined waters, probably with increased traffic and other hazards such as squat and interaction.

On the other hand, the vessel takes on board a local pilot with specialist knowledge to compensate for these additional hazards. But although the pilot has intimate local knowledge, he or she may have only general knowledge about the ship and, unless told otherwise, must assume that the ship and all its machinery and equipment is fully operational. The captain, wary of the potential dangers, is looking for guidance and confirmation that the information gleaned from pilot books and other sources is correct and that the vessel is in safe hands.

This is where the MPX is of vital importance. If the MPX is full, frank and comprehensive then barring unforeseen events the pilotage will proceed smoothly. On the other hand, if the MPX is not comprehensive, the pilotage may not be so smooth.


Report Ends