Interesting Talk by member Wellington Pilot Lew Henderson

Fourteen members attended the May meeting. Not a bad turnout given the number away on vacation or being unwell.

Our speaker and member, Lew Henderson, gave an unscripted and fascinating talk for a full hour on the complexities faced by Master Mariners in command in present times.

As a current Pilot of the Port of Wellington and based on his own extensive career experience, Lew was able to engage with his audience in an informative manner  cataloguing the transformational changes in the shipping industry that have taken place since many (most?) of us at the meeting last stood on the bridge of a ship.

In his dialogue Lew traversed a full range of issues that have evolved over time and have definitely replaced the way of life which existed post WW2 and up to the introduction of container shipping, bulk shipping, cruising and the multiple offshore industries.

Probably the most prominent matter which has reshaped the industry has been the rapid advances in technology. This is exemplified by the fact that everything about the complete operation of a vessel, be it on the bridge or in the engine room, is, or is capable of, being recorded in some manner. This information is stored or accessed as necessary, by owners, regulators etc as and when seen necessary.

Ships sail without paper charts, sextants and other dated equipment which has been replaced by satellite based communication systems seen to be the ideal deputy for highly trained but sometimes fallible human beings.

Ships crews very often are a mixture of cultures, languages and having different dietary requirements. 

Evidence of qualifications may well be suspect. 

Health & Safety at Work legislation overarches all shipboard activities. 

Uniforms of office have, to all extent, disappeared. As a Pilot, when Lew boards a vessel he often identifies the Master as the individual in a group who steps forward to shake hands. 

Alcohol aboard ships has just about disappeared. 

Crews are small and the support and comradeship which existed in the past has been replaced by isolation and the potential for individual psychiatric problems. 

The ever present tension between ships masters and owners and regulators (policy innovators) is one situation which remains unchanged. viz a recent move to train candidates to be pilots but without their having the historical requirement of holding a Master’s FG Certificate of Competency. An action defeated by the Maritime Pilots Association

Lew had certainly not finished when time ran out. He has offered to speak again but with a focus on his pilotage responsibilities. This will be most welcome.

Next month Katherine Walker has agreed to talk about qualifications and the current career path  to become a Master Mariner ( if that is what you could possibly want after hearing Lew Henderson’s description!?) 

Please mark your diary for Master Mariners lunch on Wednesday 12th June.

Hope to see you then

Ken Watt


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