Remote pilotage and enhanced navigation assistance
The drive to reduce costs and to ensure that ports can stay open to the maximum extent in all weathers has given impetus to the search for more flexible vessel traffic management; something that current advances in technology make it possible to contemplate. Various issues pose a significant challenge to implementation, including the inherent conservatism of the maritime community. Nonetheless, aspects of potential new services are already in regualr use. Remote pilotage is a detectable strand in EU research thinking and the port of Rotterdam is preparing for its all weather implementation. First the issues involved were established by means of a literature search followed by a series of structured interviews and a questionnaire. the results were analysed, leading to a body of results that can be used by those seeking to make decisions in this area of maritime operations. A comparison with Air Traffic Management concluded that there would be merit in adopting some of its philosophy and procedures. specific focus was then given to establishing, by means of a questionnaire, a generic set of indicators by which it can be decided whether specific vessels quality for a given new service. Throughout the research qualitative data was sought from highly qualified professionals. Two new services are proposed; remote pilotage and enhanced navigation assistance. In the hierarchy of services they fit between the provision of an on board pilot and those currently provided by a VTS. Working definitions of both services have been established. The required technology is either available or can be seen to be a realistic prospect. AIS has emerged as a key enabling technology and the exchange of passage plans will be important. However,technology alone will not suffice to make change practible. The non-technological issues are more intractable but capable of solution. Progress, if realised, can be expected to be slow; the current assessment for the spread of remote pilotage is 10-15 years. A case cannot be made for the implementation of remoter pilotage or enhanced navigation assistance on the grounds of improved safety; an acceptable level of safety must be assumed to exist. There is also a need for the appropriate legislative framework to be in place and the issue of liability to be resolved. Ultimately the prime requirement for successful implementation is the realisation of a commercial benefit to both a port and the ship owner.