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No change on the horizon for pilots

A SPATE of recent accidents involving ships under pilotage in Australian waters, including two off the WA coast in the past month, and the increasing litigiousness of ship owners is prompting a rethink of the rules ship pilots operate under.

However, it is understood the WA Government has no plans to tighten the regulations marine pilots operate under.

In the past there have been several incidents involving ships under pilotage where the ship owners of the damaged vessels have sued the ports. So far this has not happened in WA.

The issue is certainly of concern to pilots, with the Australian Marine Pilot’s Association holding a conference in Sydney on the safe management of shipping in ports.

AMPA president Alex Amos said he had invited WA Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan to open the conference because she had indicated concerns about port safety.

WA Business News was unable to contact Ms MacTiernan, however it is under-stood she has no plans to bring pilots under the Government’s direct operational control or to change the regime they operate under.

Ms MacTiernan did, however, recommend the Dampier Port Authority improve safety

at the port in January after a report into its operations returned some damning findings.

The State’s 16 major ports operate under two separate regimes – eight ports are run by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the other eight are managed by port authorities.

One of the most recent examples of a ship owner suing a port authority occurred in Wallaroo in South Australia. Their vessel hit a wharf-mounted shipping loader, which caused damage to the ship.

The two recent WA incidents were both groundings. The Brave Success ran aground while under pilotage at the new port servicing Onslow Salt, and the Hanjin Dampier hit shoals 18 kilometres seaward of Dampier.

Elsewhere in Australian waters, the Greek bulk carrier the Doric Chariot ran aground on July 29 and spent a week marooned on the Great Barrier Reef, while the ANL Excellence ran aground in Moreton Bay.

Captain Amos said pilots feared being sued by a second or third party, such as the ship owner.

“Pilotage regulations in WA are very open. In every other State pilots have to be licensed. In WA they just gazette the name and he’s a pilot,” he said.

DPI acting director of marine safety Alan Gooch said marine pilots gazetted to operate in any of WA’s ports had to meet national guidelines.

The guidelines also include things such as ensuring pilots are Master Class 1 mariners prospect, meet medical standards and have appropriate training.

With that gazettal comes an indemnity covering the port and the pilot for any negligence on behalf of the pilot.

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