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- Anne Grethe Nilsen

Automated control of vessels using Pilot Exemption Certificates

In November, the Norwegian Coastal Administration introduced a digital tool that improves and automates the process of uncovering compulsory pilotage violations. Monitoring compulsory pilotage, including the Pilot Exemption Certificate (PEC) scheme, helps ensure a high degree of safety along the coast.

The map shows a vessel sailing outside its valid Pilot Exemption Certificate area. The violation was discovered in an automated control of PEC voyages, using the NCA ship reporting system SafeSeaNet Norway.
The map shows a vessel sailing outside its valid Pilot Exemption Certificate area. The violation was discovered in an automated control of PEC voyages, using the NCA ship reporting system SafeSeaNet Norway.

When a voyage goes outside the area or fairway for which the pilot exemption certificate is valid, the NCA immediately receives an automatic notification from the system. In such an event, the NCA contacts the captain on board the vessel in question and asks for an explanation of what happened.

“Usually, there’s a natural explanation where the captain has made a sound nautical assessment, but there are also cases where the compulsory pilotage has been deliberately ignored,” says Senior Advisor Tommy Haugsnes at the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

Such incidents are registered as violations of the compulsory pilotage regulations, and the official reaction will depend on the gravity of the case. The NCA is authorized to issue fines and/or revoke pilot exemption certificates.

“The feedback from the industry is that we have implemented a scheme for Pilot Exemption Certificates that is credible and professional.” 

“In that regard, uncovering individual violations is important for maintaining a good and effective system,” Haugsnes says.

Reports from seafarers

In addition to the automatic control, the NCA receives electronic reports from seafarers when they suspect the compulsory pilotage has been violated. As of 1 September 2017, 36 voyages have been reported for suspected violations of varying degrees of seriousness, of which 23 have been registered as violations of the compulsory pilotage regulations.

“Some cases have been assessed as being serious violations and have led to pilot exemption certificates being revoked for a time, whether for all or for parts of the area of validity,” Haugsnes explains. “Fines have also been issued to some PEC holders and shipowners.”

So far in 2017, less serious violations of the compulsory pilotage regulations have led to the issuing of eleven warnings. Repeated violations can lead to reactions such as a fine or the revocation of Pilot Exemption Certificates.

Monitoring ‒ a crucial part of exercising authority

“As an authority and transportation agency, it is important for us to maintain a high degree of safety and honesty in the scheme, even as it ensures equal terms of competition in the sector,” says Jon Leon Ervik, a section head at the NCA’s Center for Pilotage and Vessel Traffic Services. “Using high-quality digital tools helps us become even more prepared for maintaining this responsibility.”

Looking at the number of PEC voyages, only a few violate the compulsory pilotage regulations. Of the nearly 53,000 voyages that have sailed with pilot exemption certificates so far in 2017, only 23 violations have as yet been uncovered.

“Despite the low number of violations, the Coastal Administration wants the automated surveillance and control to help reduce these numbers even further, even as the majority of the voyages can take place safely and effectively without further intervention from the Coastal Administration,” Ervik says.

Example of violations of pilot exemption certificates that can lead to official reactions:

  1. Violations of the provisions for resting – a PEC holder may today sail a maximum of 14 hours during a 24-hour period. Fatigue (tiredness/sleeping on duty) is one of the most common causes of ship grounding.
  2. Voyages that violate local limitations to the use of pilot exemption certificates, for example limitations to vessel length in select waters.
  3. Cases where passenger vessels avail themselves of PEC holders who are not the vessel’s actual captain. Such cases often involve having many passengers on board and the safety of these passengers. They also create ambiguity regarding who is responsible in the event something serious should happen.
  4. Cases where gross negligence has been revealed.


Facts about the PEC scheme

  • As of 1 August 2017, around 3200 valid pilot exemption certificates have been registered.
  • As the supervising authority, the Norwegian Coastal Administration is authorized by the Pilot Act and its attendant regulations to follow up compulsory pilotage violations and subsequently issue fines and revoke pilot exemption certificates. 
  • Following up compulsory pilotage violations has become an area of focus after the introduction of a new regulation that differentiated pilot exemption certificates in different classes and rights and that implemented new local limitations to the use of pilot exemption certificates.
  • The Norwegian Coastal Administration has established good routines for cooperating with the Norwegian Coast Guard, which is called on to carry out surprise inspections and document reviews when there are grounds for suspecting that the compulsory pilotage regulations have been violated. 
  • In 2013, the PEC scheme was digitized through the SafeSeaNet Norway notification system. Today, this system is used to process all the cases and control pilot exemption certificates. 
  • Only a few accidents or mishaps have been registered on board vessels sailing with a pilot exemption certificate. During the 53,000 PEC voyages that were carried in 2017 as of 1 September, only five accidents/mishaps, such as collisions or ship grounding, were registered.

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