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AWO Near Miss 23-02 Navigating Without Required Pilots

A coastal tow was approaching a Florida seaport and had contacted the pilots at the appropriate times. At one hour to go until we would be at the pilot boarding area, the second mate notified the pilots and they responded that we would be the number two inbound vessel following a ship that was approaching from the East. Soon after, the Tug went to watch condition 2 with the Chief Mate and Second Mate in the Wheelhouse. As we neared the pilot boarding area, we slowed our speed to give the ship plenty of space to make their approach and board their pilot. The Mates were reviewing the local Fleet Notice when the pilots contacted the Tug on VHF 14. The pilots asked the Tug to start inbound, following the ship, and they would board us AFTER we were inside the jetties. The mates immediately disagreed with pilots, the chief mate explained our specific (company) policies to them, and we required an offshore boarding by the pilots. After this exchange, the pilot dispatch/ boat operator admitted that our pilot was not even on the pilot boat. Our pilot was still driving in, stuck in traffic. After the pilot boarded the inbound ship, the pilot boat had to go back to the pilot station, get our pilot, then come out to the boarding area. Had we followed the initial directions of pilots, the unit would have transited 40 to 45 minutes into seaport, including the Jetties, without a required pilot onboard.
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September 26, 2023