The safety framework prescribed by successive issues of Marine Orders Part 54 (MO 54) has not assigned the responsibility for the overall management of the safety risks associated with coastal pilotage operations to pilotage providers or any other organisation.
This has allowed the following issues to exist:
- the 2001 objective of MO 54 to ensure that all pilotage operations are covered by an approved safety management system has not been achieved
- the absence of uniform, adequately risk-analysed procedures for the pilotage task and standardised passage plans to allow ship crews to pre-plan passages
- pilotage provider safety management systems that only address the risks primarily associated with assigning pilots to ships and pilot transfer operations
- the devolution of the responsibility to manage the most safety critical aspects of coastal pilotage to the individual pilots without direct regulatory oversight
- the proliferation of individualised systems of piloting with wide variations that make assessment and monitoring of pilotage standards difficult and increase the potential for sub-optimal pilotage procedures, practices and passage plans
- the absence of an appropriate industry safety culture, promoted and fostered by an accountable organisation(s), whose first priority and business imperative is to provide the safest possible coastal pilotage service.
Response from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) advised the ATSB that:
AMSA acknowledges the issues and notes that there are a number of areas that are currently in progress:
- a standardised industry passage plan (IPP) was published on 1 July 2011 to provide all ships a uniform standard to plan for a coastal pilotage in advance
- the publication of MO 54 issue 5 (implemented 1 July 2011) strives to provide a stronger link between provider and pilotage activities.
The IPP is accessible on AMSA’s website via www.amsa.gov.au/pilotage and hard copies of the preamble and chartlets are available for those who cannot access the documents electronically. It is anticipated that the IPP will continue to develop as experience is gained. As identified in the 2008 study ‘Delivery of Coastal Pilotage Services in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait’, AMSA will commence a review of the revised MO 54 (issue 5) 12 months after implementation (on 1 July 2012).
In accordance with issue 5 of MO 54, all pilots must prepare detailed passage plans that use the IPP model and carry hard and electronic copies of the plan.
In addition, AMSA advised that it recognises the need for pilotage procedures to be an integral part of the safety management systems for organisations providing pilotage services. Consequently, after its audits of the pilotage providers in January 2012, each provider undertook the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for conducting the pilotage task under a risk management framework. It is intended that these SOPs will be implemented through the providers’ safety management systems, which will be subject to AMSA’s annual verification and compliance audits.
Importantly, AMSA advised that the review of MO 54 (from July 2012) will seek to more clearly assign and articulate the responsibility of the pilotage providers for the overall management of safety risks in pilotage operations, including responsibility for the SOPs to be followed by the pilots operating under their safety management systems.
On 13 September 2012, the Navigation Act 2012 (completely rewritten legislation) received the Royal Assent. This Act provides the following, significantly revised definition for a pilotage provider:
Pilotage provider includes a person who is responsible for the following:
(a) training pilots
(b) the safe transfer and operation of pilots
(c) assigning or allocating a pilot to the transit of a vessel through particular waters
(d) undertaking such other activities in relation to pilotage as are prescribed by the regulations; irrespective of the legal relationship, contractual or otherwise, between that person and the pilot concerned.
The ATSB acknowledges the safety action taken and proposed by AMSA to address the safety issue, in particular the introduction of standard passage plans and the requirement for pilotage providers to develop standard operating procedures for the pilotage task. However, the implementation of a safety management system(s) can only be fully effective if it is supported by the development of an appropriate organisational and industry safety culture promoted and fostered by an accountable organisation(s). In this respect, the much broader revised definition for a pilotage provider in the Navigation Act 2012 is consistent with an organisation that can be assigned responsibility for the overall safety management of pilotage under MO 54.