The 2016 conference of the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association (UKMPA) was held in Cowes on 14th-15th September, in association with local lifejacket and coat manufacturer SeaSafe Systems who are celebrating their 50th anniversary of business.
The second day of the conference concentrated on the practical hazards and challenges of pilot transfer operations and was held on the waterside at Cowes Harbour Commission’s marina at Shepards Wharf and inside the adjacent Sugar Store Events Centre.
The purpose of the “Pilot Transfer Safety” seminar was to draw awareness to risks that maritime pilots are exposed to when transferring between pilot boats and vessels at sea. The seminar studied the scenario of a pilot falling in the water, the physiological effects, methods of recovery, the care that is required once the casualty is recovered from the water through to the emergency planning for a port to consider when undertaking a risk assessment. Timed around the High Water period, there were presentations and practical demonstrations covering various aspects including, man overboard rescue techniques, casualty handling and cold-water immersion issues.
This 128th UKMPA Conference and Pilot Safety Day had been 18 months in the making for SeaSafe Managing Director Jeremy Dale, who talked about the importance of bringing the event to Cowes and the focus on pilot transfer safety. Jeremy said: “SeaSafe is an Isle of Wight company, and we have been trading for 50 years now with the pilots the backbone of our business, so it was a pleasure and an honour to arrange the annual UK Pilots’ Association conference right here in Cowes.
“The main thrust of the talks and demonstrations at Shepards has been on safety and to get people talking and thinking about safety; this is what has happened here today with our excellent speakers from the UKMPA, the Coastguard, and Portsmouth University. Everyone was taken through a sequence of events that might occur should a pilot fall in the water during transfer to a vessel, and the importance of the ensuing “golden hour” when there is the highest likelihood that prompt rescue and medical treatment will prevent a fatality.”
Rod Hodgson, Cowes Deputy Harbour Master and Pilot, said: “The UKMPA conference has been a really useful opportunity to meet other pilots and to share and review our working practices. Today’s talks fully highlighted that even though it is a fundamental part of our normal ‘day job’, we as pilots must never get complacent about the dangers involved in embarking and disembarking ships, in all weathers, via what is essentially a rope ladder. Regular review of the risks and control measures is essential, including the potentially lifesaving actions that may be required of the pilot boat crew in the event that it goes wrong and you find yourself in the water, as it is likely that the pilot’s life will be in their hands.
“The Cowes location was extremely well received by all those who attended,” added Rod. “Being right at the heart of the Solent, you have got one of the busiest and varied waterways in the country. On both days of the conference we had seaside locations (New Holmwood Hotel and Shepards Wharf Marina), with a backdrop of commercial shipping and leisure users.”
Jeremy concluded: “Overall, this event has shown what we can do on the Island, that we can put on bigger events. Yes, you have got to think slightly outside the box, as you cannot necessarily do it all in one location. The New Holmwood Hotel is superb the way they look after people, the Yacht Haven have been great, Shepards have been wonderful too. But using the water down here today has been fantastic and a first for the UKMPA. Overall, we have had a great opportunity, and been able to promote Cowes and the Isle of Wight, which is a real bonus.”