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Master Mariners & The WAFIs

9th November 2016
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The Pilotage conference at the National Maritime College The Pilotage conference at the National Maritime College

Master Mariners are interesting people to meet and talk with. They are the Captains of their industry… The Shipmasters …. Leaders in the Merchant Navy…. A Master Mariner achieves that designation after years of study, examinations, Cadetship, sea-going service, more examinations as career advancement is achieved in the ships’ officer ranks and regular updating required of qualifications to ‘handle’ a ship…

It is a rank completely misunderstood by the general media… no surprise there when journalists and broadcasters with inadequate maritime knowledge describe those in charge of yachts as Captains or describe Skippers of fishing boats as Captains. It underlines the ignorance amongst the media of the marine sphere and the rank of Captain in the Merchant Navy.
I met Master Mariners at the Pilotage Conference in the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy on the edge of Cork Harbour. They were discussing ‘Marine Pilotage Today and in the Future.
Four leading marine organisations combined to hold the conference – the Irish Institute of Master Mariners; the Irish Branch of the international Nautical Institute; NMCI Ports, which is the Port Operations Training section of the National Maritime College and the Port of Cork Company.

There was a big attendance of Master Mariners, pilots, cadets and College students. The relationship of Shipmasters and bridge crews aboard vessels with the pilots when they board ships entering harbours, the use of new electronic technology and other emerging trends, the adequacy of the training of pilots and the interaction with tugs when used, to ensure safe towage were amongst the topics discussed.

It was fascinating to hear the problems which can be encountered, the difficulties facing the officers and crew on the ships’ bridge.
I was shown what a large, heavily loaded container ship encountered from a yacht in Cork Harbour. This yacht came from the starboard side and was videoed by the bridge personnel as, despite warnings, it sailed practically under the rapidly approaching bow of the ship. From the bridge view, high up above the ship’s deck, the yacht looked a small but dangerous sight on the video. It ignored the ship and disappeared from view across the ship’s bow, to the consternation of the bridge officers and the pilot…. To the relief of everyone, it emerged on the port side, barely ahead of the ships’ bow.

It was a flagrant breach of safety… Whoever was aboard the yacht showed no consideration for the problems they were causing to the ship which had little room to manoeuvre. Were it an incident on the road I would consider the yacht crew chargeable for highly dangerous driving….

Marine pilots and Shipmasters told me that this was not an unusual incident, but an all-too regular occurrence. While racing events are controlled by clubs and warnings issued to participants about not interfering with shipping, leisure sailors impede ships and yachts are not the only offenders. So are motorboaters, jetskis and angling boats anchored too close to or in the shipping channel.
In commercial harbours shipping traffic has right-of-way, yacht clubs and others operate with the goodwill of the port companies. That needs to be remembered before the ignorance demonstrated on the video shown to me causes the imposition of restrictive regulations on leisure boating.
And what about WAFIS?
I learned that it is a term, not of endearment, used at times by ships’ crews to describe sailors causing dangerous problems for shipping:
The acronym reads in full WIND ASSISTED F…. (use your imagination) IDIOTS…
From what I saw on that container ship’s video in Cork Harbour it can be deserved …. and Cork is not the only harbour where similar incidents occur.
• Listen to the Podcast above

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