Maneuvering a ship is not an easy task. A ship pilot along with the captain plays a vital role in handling the ship while entering or leaving ports. Right from the time ship gets prepared to leave on her journey to the time it is finally anchored to the shore, the pilot of a ship has to look into a number of things to ensure smooth sailing.
It takes a lot of skills, several maneuvering tactics and some good experience before a ship pilot or captain can even begin to get comfortable with ship piloting. Some of the challenges faced by them during ship maneuvering are mentioned here.
1. Arrival or departure of the ship from a harbor port
For anyone handling a ship, getting to or moving away from a harbor is one of the most challenging task. It takes a lot of ship piloting skills to safely dock a ship at the harbor. Likewise, leaving a harbor also means another test for the pilot of a ship.
Since the ship’s speed is extremely low at this time and there is continuous use of the propulsion and maneuvering systems, scenarios such as sudden loss of ship’s propulsion or a blackout are common. Thus, the person responsible has to take care of all these factors.
2. Ship Traffic
A ship in close proximity to another ship can quickly lose its balance due to several factors. The flow of water and change in the wind flow, along with development of tension when two ships get closer than desired is a highly risky situation. Since such a situation often arises suddenly, it takes instant and efficient ship piloting strategies to ensure safety of both the ships.
If the close proximity happens to be heads on with both ships coming at each other from opposite direction then it’s the job of the ship pilot to decide which shape gets the right of way. Generally ship with lesser maneuverability is allowed the right of the way. But still managing to get the ship out of there is a challenge to be faced by the person in charge.
3. Narrow and Confined channels and Several Obstacles
Sailing through narrow and confined channels is tricky enough. It is one of the riskiest situations to get a ship out of and a classic example of piloting. Through narrow channels, the pilot of a ship has to make a number of changes to ship like lower propulsion rate, angle study, speed regulation of ship, and prevention of collision besides the other gazillion minor things he has to take care of.
Moreover several man-made or natural obstacles also have to be taken care of while maneuvering a ship, which becomes difficult especially in a high traffic zone.
4. Spiraling paths
Sometimes a ship runs into a narrow or even a wide path but with a twist, literally. Too many curves in a ship’s path mean frequent changes in ship’s speed, orientation, angle, propulsion, sails and what not.
Meandering through a curvy path is one of the common challenges faced by ship pilots especially those on long distance journeys. Seriousness of this challenge is further aggravated if a ship happens to be a large one.
5. Handling huge ships
Handling of a ship depends on its size. While smaller ships may not even need a ship pilot (though for that they would need a special authorization certificate) larger ships can’t thing about sailing without piloting skills of a ship pilot. Huge size of such ships needs special maneuvering skills that can be handled by a ship pilot alone.
Also, maneuvering a huge ship becomes an even greater challenge if the ship happens to be carrying materials like arms or people like on cruise ships. Since on such ships, the scope for minor hitches like a few bumps also needs to be minimal, it becomes a different challenge altogether for pilot of a ship to manage them.
6. Natural challenges
Besides the above mentioned man made situation, there are the natural challenges that a ship pilot faces. Unexpected gusts of fog, winds, high tides in ocean, stagnant waters, ice covers etc are only some of the numerous challenges that need piloting skills.
Each situation is a different challenge and needs a different set of maneuvering techniques from the ship pilot’s kitty.