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Safely Guided By Experience

Captain Cahit Istikbal, Chairman of the Turkish Maritime Pilots' Association and Vice Chairman of the International Maritime Pilots' Association, says “Generally, the tanker captains become rather tense when their ships are laden. But when they see the pilot, they feel relieved, for they know the pass will be smooth. So, we can say that pilots are the best friends of the captains. Pilots know captains from almost all countries in the world, and they make long-term friends,” in our interview we made with him.

Safely Guided By Experience
16 October 2008 - 22:27

Capt. Cahit Istikbal

Captain Cahit Istikbal, Chairman of the Turkish Maritime Pilots' Association and Vice Chairman of the International Maritime Pilots' Association, says “Generally, the tanker captains become rather tense when their ships are laden. But when they see the pilot, they feel relieved, for they know the pass will be smooth. So, we can say that pilots are the best friends of the captains. Pilots know captains from almost all countries in the world, and they make long-term friends,” in our interview we made with him.

Pilotage is one of the professions that would never end in the maritime industry, and has vital importance for the Turkish Straits, for approximately 155 vessels pass through the Istanbul Strait (the Bosphorus) everyday. 28 of these vessels are tankers and 6 are vessels with an overall length of over 200 meters. These vessels carry hundreds of thousands of hazardous  materials through a canal with a very high population on both sides, where any potential risks may cause a disaster at anytime. Pilots provide friendly assistance to captains for a problem-free pass through the straits with their experience.

Could you please provide us with information about the European Maritime Pilots' Association assembly to be held in Turkey in 2009, and about this association?

European Maritime Pilots'Association (EMPA) is an organization with headquarters located in Antwerp, Belgium, and has total of 27 members consisting of pilotage organizations from 25 European countries, including Turkey. As the Turkish Maritime Pilots' Association (TUMPA), we became a member of this association in 2002. Turkey had not proceeded much on the way to membership into the EU at that time. We have taken an active role in the association following our acceptance as a member. I was elected the Vice Chairman at the General Assembly of the International Maritime Pilots'Association (IMPA) held in Germany in the same year. It is not easy to hold a general assembly in Turkey. Because, all countries want
to do it. In the first place, we held the General Assembly of IMPA in Istanbul in 2004 with pilots from all over the world, and as TUMPA, we successfully hosted them.

Efthimios Mitropoulos, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, had just been elected. He arranged one of his first visits to Turkey, and delivered a speech at the IMPA's General Assembly. He said, “The Turkish Straits are the spiritual home of pilotage”, which hit the headlines then. This general assembly served as a reference for us at EMPA and it has been decided to hold the general assembly for 2009 in Turkey.

43rd General Assembly of EMPA will be held in Antalya between  April 22 and 24. Turkish pilots will have the opportunity to exchange their knowledge and experiences with their European counterparts. As TUMPA, we have thus commenced integration with the European Maritime Pilots' Association  within the scope of Turkey's integration into the EU.

What advantages do such organizations provide to Turkey?

First of all, tourism; we gain many friends from all over the world. Total of around 400 technical experts will come from the EU countries. Above all, this assembly will also serve as a forum for exchanging technical knowledge, providing experience and prestige to our community and country. It is very likely that one of the members of TUMPA would be elected to the
management of EMPA. I was first elected to the international technical committee as a result of my technical activities at the congress of IMPA in Shanghai in 1998. When I came to be known, I became candidate for the board of directors. As the Turkish Maritime Pilots, we will promote Turkey and do our part to be represented at an organization that is quite
effective in the EU. Turkey cannot secure its position in Europe merely getting credits.

What is the importance of pilotage particularly in terms of the Turkish Straits and the shipping industry?

Pilotage has vital importance for Istanbul, for approximately 155 vessels pass through the Istanbul Strait (the Bosphorus) everyday. 28 of these vessels are tankers and 6 are vessels with an overall length of over 200 meters. These vessels carry hundreds of thousands of hazardous materials such as crude oil, LPG, jet fuel, etc. through a canal. The Bosphorus is not merely a narrow canal; it is one of the most challenging waterways with hairpin bends and a current flowing at a speed of 6-7 miles per hour.

Furthermore, crowded settlements begin right on the coasts on both sides. In case of a wrong maneuver or technical failure on board, potential risks may cause a disaster at anytime. An explosion and fire is quite likely, and oil may spill along the Bosphorus, which may lead to disastrous damages. 95 per cent of tankers passing through the straits request pilots. Pilots
has great share in problem-free passage of tankers. It may sound pretentious, but I must say that a laden tanker sailing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara has no possibility to pass through the Bosphorus without having an accident, because of the Yenikoy and Kandilli bends. Pilots ensure problem-free passage with their experience, human factor.
83 per cent of marine accidents are due to human error. In other words, the human factor is a very important factor in marine accidents. Consequently, the human factor risk on board a ship passing through the Istanbul Strait can be eliminated with pilots. However, assuming that all vessel receive pilots, we cannot say that it is 100 per cent safe, for there is the technical failure risk.

Importance of pilotage in terms of the shipping industry is twofold: Pilots move vessels into and out of berths safely, or they ensure safe navigation along dangerous waterways like the Turkish Straits. Ultimately, pilots protect the environment and ports, and thus provide benefits to the public, and protect the vessels of owners, serving to their interests. On the other
hand, pilots serve to 3 to 4 vessels everyday, and they meet seafarers from all over the world on board these vessels, and learn about the vessels of different nations. So, they all have
experience and up-to-date information about the current situation of the maritime industry.

What are the competencies required for becoming a pilot?

Regulations relating to pilotage were renewed in 2006, and we conducted researches on competencies in the world during these renewals, and we shared the results with the concerned
organizations. The regulations comply with IMO Resolution 960 regulating the training and working conditions of the maritime pilots. These regulations provide the maritime pilots with the

IMPA 2007 SAFETY CAMPAIGN

IMPA carried out a safety campaign for 1 week in 2007 by pilots around the world, into the standard of ladders and ancillary boarding equipment provided for their use under SOLAS. The issue of pilots personal safety assumed urgency in 2006 when eight marine pilots were lost in separate accidents connected to embarking / disembarking from vessels. Prior to these sad events IMPA already had work in progress on amendments to Regulation 23 of SOLAS Ch 5 and Resolution A889 which culminated in the submission of IMO Maritime Safety Committee SC 82 / 21 / 17 in Istanbul. The study involved more than 4,500 reports from 38 national pilot organisations, reporting on vessels for a one-week “snap-shot” in October
2007. The result showed a 16.5 % level of defects which, whilst an improvement on 2002, represented too high a level of non-compliance. IMPA has also, with the blessing of IMO, reprinted all instruments relating to pilot transfer into one document called “Guidance for Naval Architects and Shipyards”, available free, as it is apparent new vessels are still being
delivered with non-SOLAS compliant equipment.

right  to reject pilotage if they consider it would be unsafe. The conditions for becoming a maritime pilot in Turkey include undergraduate education, being a Turkish national and unlimited master, speaking English fluently, and having  specific experience. There are some different trends in the world. Because people do not want to become a seafarer in Europe, they cannot find captains from their own nation for employment on board their ships. There was demand to become a maritime pilot in the past, but it has decreased to a large extent in Europe and Japan. Consequently, they are in search of training personnel without decreasing the quality standards. They are considering subjecting officers or university graduates to practical training for a specific period of time to train them as pilots. The problem of finding adequate number of personnel for vessels can be solved by changing the flag, but you have to be the citizen of that specific country in order to serve as a pilot.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of maritime pilots and unlimited masters in general?

 

Seafaring is a difficult profession.The most distressing aspect of being a captain is that they are away from their homes and families. They cannot go home until the end of their contracts. In the past, vessels would stay at a country for one month. It is not the same today; they cannot spend even a few days at ports. Working on board requires great self-sacrifice in social terms. Being an unlimited master is no longer a profession that you can do for a lifetime. You are at sea for four months, then you have one month leave, and then spend 4 months away from your home again. It has even become very difficult to go ashore during that period of time. Maritime pilotage is a profession a master can do on land. But there is a problem at this point: maritime pilotage is not a field that requires much employment. For example, our association has total of 305 members in Turkey and 45 of them are retired masters. Maritime pilots’ salaries are at the same level as those of unlimited masters. They are not away from the sea, but they can continue their social lives at home. So it is in demand. On the other hand, it is very risky. Maritime pilots are just in the middle of any likely accident. Besides, there can be accidents during transfers to and from vessels. An average of two people lose their lives as a result of such accidents every year. Most of these accidents are due to pilot ladders. While vessels navigate at a specific speed, pilot boats draw alongside, and pilots climb up the ladder to board the ship. Ladders are made of rope and wood and the maximum length must be 9 meters according to international standards. Seas are not always calm; general there is wind and waves. There are specific standards for pilot ladders, but they may not fit for particular types of vessels. You may feel dizzy, blood pressure may drop or rise suddenly. Pilots have to climb up and down a height of 4-story building. So, accidents happen.

As Turkish Maritime Pilots' Association and IMPA, we have some studies aimed at eliminating these pilot ladder accidents. Safety campaigns are conducted by IMPA. Pilots report deficiencies on board vessels they climb up, whether the steps are clean, lifeline provided, an officer watching by the ladder with a radio in hand. These deficiencies are then submitted to IMO as a report with relevant statistics. A similar study is currently being conducted and some modifications are proposed for SOLAS.

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