The Role of the Pilot
I think we would all agree on the challenges facing marine transportation. We are in an extraordinary time of change, with cascading liabilities and a disconnect with the general public that is so well served by the trade. It would seem we are living through change akin to the 19th century's Industrial Revolution in which technological change eventually effected cultural change. The technological revolution of the last twenty years has finally started to affect changes in our culture, especially as regards the environment. The worldwide information revolution has brought the environmental movement into its own having significant effect on public opinion towards old line systems like marine transportation.
It is now incumbent on piloting groups worldwide to re-educate local communities on the vital role of marine transportation and of the key job pilots play in the overall picture. The pilot being the one individual (in the system) that is able to put the safety of The Public Trust ahead of commercial pressures to move the cargo and he/she can only do that within a defined/protected system of pilotage akin to "State Pilotage" in the United States. The alternative is the archaic system of competitive pilotage in which a number of groups or individuals compete for any and all ship traffic entering a particular harbor. That system immediately lends itself vulnerable to competitive pressures that sacrifice safety relegating The Public Trust to become some distant consideration behind the immediate concern of securing income.
I can honestly say that I cannot think of any pilot, never mind group of pilots, that does not accept the fact that we are responsible members of a small group of professionals tasked with balancing the flow of commerce with The Public Trust. It is not an easy job by any measure and can only by accomplished by training, improving and professionalism. Can I say with certainty that all pilots adhere to this philosophy? No more than I can say all people adhere to that philosophy.
I do know this, we must move from a "blame culture" to a "just culture" in order that we can work together on the major issues facing marine transportation worldwide.
Source: Seaways Magazine, July 2011, Letter to the Editor from Captain George Livingstone