[INFOGRAPHIC] A panorama on pilotage services in Brazilian ports

  • 22/03/2019
  • 8 minutes

Pilotage services are fundamental in order to guarantee safety in the places where there is large vessel traffic. The specialty implements several procedures, calculations, and measurements so that the ships can move safely and without putting people, the environment, and other vessels in danger.

A document issued by IGP&I (International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs) shows that, in Brazil, the accident rate with pilotage maneuvres is of only 0.002%. It’s a similar percentage to that of countries with superior infrastructure, such as the United States, which highlights the quality of the Brazilian professionals.

Therefore, it’s a world that deserves to be recognized due to its great strategic importance to the country and to the companies involved in maritime commerce. Keep reading to learn more!

The dynamics of pilotage services

Pilotage professionals operate in structured ports, waterways, rivers, or watercourses which, because of their characteristics, make the transit of vessels difficult. As we’ve pointed out before, this set of activities, carried out by specialized technical professionals called pilots, aims to guarantee navigation safety. The goal is to minimize the risk of accidents, which, as we’ve seen, is almost zero in Brazil.

Besides, it’s one of the oldest professions in our country. The first regiment for maritime pilots was published in June 1808, with a heading by the then Prince Regent Don John VI, as soon as the Portuguese court was established in Brazilian ground.

After the Independence of Brazil, pilotage remained under the control of the Marine Corps, who normalized the procedures followed by several pilotage cooperatives. It’s worth highlighting that one can join the profession through a civil service examination, with notices endorsed by the government and under the supervision of the Marine Corps and the ANTAQ (National Water Transport Agency).

A pilot’s responsibilities

As an assistant to the commander, the pilot is a specialist with deep knowledge about the local topographic and qw291’klmaritime characteristics and about vessel flow. He or she is the point of contact with the tugboat belonging to the company appointed by the consignee agent to assist with the maneuvers; therefore, the pilot must always be up-to-date with the maneuvers in progress.

The necessary responsibilities include going through the access channel in accordance with the vessel’s draft and the restrictions established by the maritime and port authorities. Being a pilot means paying constant attention to any possible dangerous situations during maneuvers, such as:

  • broken hawser;
  • engine failure on the vessel or on the tugboat;
  • the flow of other ships;
  • collision with floating objects on the estuary;
  • unexpected bad weather.

Working on pilotage zones

Pilotage zones are geographical areas limited by local peculiarities which hamper the free, safe movement of vessels. Therefore, the uninterrupted availability of pilotage services is required in order to guarantee the proper flow of ships.

In this scenario, the pilot must know in full detail the characteristics of each one of those zones so he or she can ensure a quick mooring, with as few maneuvers as possible. After all, each movement means fuel being spent; that, in the end, represents a higher operational cost.

It’s also important to know that the activity is regulated by the “Safe Navigation Law” (Lei de Segurança da Navegação) 9.537, issued in 1997. It contains all the norms and obligatory procedures to those who exercise the profession. Also regulated by the government, the delimitation of the pilotage zones in Brazil is listed on the 4th annex, available online.

Most used skills, resources, and tools

The infrastructure used in pilotage depends on the center of operations. It’s on this center that the preliminary activities are planned and organized, from the authorization to perform maneuvers issued by the port authority, to communication via VHF radio with ships and agents.

Equipped with radars, the pilotage operation control centers monitor positions through the vessels’ GPS, which have a certified tide gauge. Thus, it’s possible to evaluate if the actual tide is aligned with the chartered tide and with the dynamic draft measurement system. It cannot be emphasized enough that the draft is the minimum depth a ship can navigate.

So if the depth of the submerged area in which the ship is maneuvering does not reach the draft, this region must be avoided. This measurement can vary according to the geography of estuaries and coasts. It’s not like a pool, which is always flat, with no disturbances.

Pilots also operate alongside professionals licensed to provide safe transport and help with mooring maneuvers. In addition to the support of specialists, they can count on motorboats equipped with AIS (Automatic Identification System), which constantly monitor the area. They inform the control center by radio in case of an anomaly, for example, if a moored ship has soft cables or if there are any oil stains or obstacles in the mooring place.

A good example of pilotage operation in Santos: they provide cameras throughout the whole port, and use meteorological and oceanographic equipment to measure height and length of time of the waves, and the direction and intensity of the currents and of the wind. Visibility and tidal range variation are also measured, guaranteeing real-time monitoring of the entire navigable canal of the Port of Santos, with its 20 km and 67 terminals and mooring berths.

Pilotage in Brazil

The model proposed by the government and by ANTAQ for maneuver control establishes that each port authority must keep a specialized structure. Therefore, considering such structures by port authorities are still in development or functioning in an incipient way, pilotage has been helping with this routine in many ports.

In a way, such a collaborative stance highlights how much the sector’s professionals are advanced. Even if the Brazilian infrastructure still needs to be improved, our pilots, organized in cooperatives, have shown themselves to be sensible and act in order to compensate for eventual failures or precariousness. Thus, it’s fair to consider the future of Brazilian pilotage services to be promising, despite the obstacles that will gradually be overcome.

We hope that this article has cleared up all your doubts about the profession of maritime pilot and its routines. How about going even further and reading, right now, our article where we share everything you need to know about shipping agency?