Marine pilots play a crucial but often unrecognised role in Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector, safely manoeuvring a wide range of different vessels, from LNG tankers to drilling rigs, into position at all of Trinidad’s ports. The 24-7 nature of the energy sector means that pilots always need to be on call and managing fatigue has been identified as a major safety issue. Continuous professional training for both pilots and other key maritime professionals is also crucial to ensure that they can operate safely and to the highest international standards. 

With both these issues in mind, the Trinidad and Tobago Pilots' Association recently built a new Dispatch and Simulation Training and Resource Centre in Savonetta, Point Lisas. Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Pilot Master Kurt Duncan said the new facility represents a significant investment for the Association and “paves the way to improved pilotage service through higher levels of reliability and efficiency. The primary objective of this investment is to ensure all pilots are highly competent to provide a safe and efficient pilotage service to our customers”. 

The Association has identified fatigue as a key contributor to accidents and incidents during vessel manouevres and for this reason, has focused on fatigue management initiatives to ensure pilots are properly rested for their respective shifts. The establishment of pilot dispatch centres at strategic locations around the country assists in reducing the stress of road traffic and minimising pilot fatigue. 

Located at Savonetta Estate near to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, the new facility is the latest property developed by the Association and will support port operations in central and southern Trinidad. It adds to existing pilot dispatch facilities in Chaguaramas, Port of Spain, Tobago and Brighton Port. The Savonetta facility will support ports such as Port Point Lisas, Yara, Claxton Bay, Pointe-a-Pierre, Brighton and Point Fortin, which include critical petroleum, petrochemical and LNG facilities that will benefit from higher levels of safety, reliability and efficiency. 

Savonetta also houses the Association’s recently commissioned, world-class simulator training facility, which features a Polaris Ship's Bridge Simulator that uses the latest technology from Kongsberg Maritime. The simulator exceeds industry standards and is certified and approved by leading classification societies. 

The Pilots' Association states that simulator training is an important tool for honing navigation, ship handling and manoeuvring skills for both seafarers and pilots. The Association therefore acquired the equipment to support and improve its existing stringent pilot training programme. All pilots are now able to undergo simulator training and improve their piloting skills on a more frequent basis. 

The simulator training is led by a team consisting of six senior pilots who have been trained by Kongberg Maritime to develop, deliver and evaluate the training modules. Formal training sessions on the simulator are going to be scheduled throughout the year, with requisite assessments to ensure that pilots are comprehensively trained. 

The simulator includes a large database of local and international ports, and a variety of ship models and environmental conditions that are reproduced in highresolution detail. Various scenarios can be programmed to train and test a pilot's competence in manoeuvring, berthing/unberthing, passage planning,and bridge resource management. 

Confirming the Association’s view of the benefits to customers, Micheal Scipio, Marine Manager at Atlantic, added that historically, Atlantic had persons travel to use simulators in Rotterdam and Rhode Island for training of its tug captains and marine personnel. The pilots also had to go to these training centres to ensure they had – and maintained – the required skills for the berthing and unberthing of LNG tankers at Atlantic. He added that with the new pilot simulation and resource centre, the logistics around training persons for the operation at Atlantic has been made significantly easier. Scipio added that the technology introduced has met international standards, even surpassing the one at Rhode Island.