Practical Ship Handling, 4th Edition 2019

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SKU 9781849270847
Publisher Brown, Son & Ferguson
ISBN 9781849270847
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The greatest risk of marine casualty occurs when a ship is in confined areas and shallow water. So that a ship may be safely navigated and skilfully handled in these situations, an expert is employed – a pilot. However, a pilot requires assistance and advice from the ship’s master, officers and crew. Every ship's officer will learn something from this new 4th Edition of Practical Ship Handling. It will give an insight into the esoteric art of ship handling and will, hopefully, lead to efficient teamwork on the bridge and a better understanding of a ship's behaviour under the influence of wind, tide, tugs and men.

Practical Ship Handling explains many fundamental principles of ship handling as applied to berthing, unberthing, passing and anchoring. The advantages and disadvantages of motor ships, steamers, bow thrusters and controllable pitch propellers are explained. Particular attention has been given to the effective placement and use of tugs in various situations and there is a summary of developments in tug propulsion from single screw to tractor.

Trainee pilots and ships’ officers who aspire to be pilots will appreciate this introduction to a specialised field in the maritime industry. Expertise at ship handling cannot be gained from books and simulators alone, it is necessary to have practice and natural ability; but this will impart another essential ingredient – knowledge.








The Pilot. The Officer of the Watch. The Master.


Size. Design: bridge aft, bridge forward, bridge amidships.

Container ships. Car carriers. Passenger ships.


The propeller. Steam and motor ships. Controllable pitch propellers.

Twin screws. Two engines – one propeller. Bow thrusters.



Squat. Banks. Meeting head on. Overtaking. Passing a ship at anchor.

Passing a ship at a wharf. Wind and current influences. Pivot point.


Channel marks. Speed of approach indicators. Radio communication.

Bridge mark. Wharf construction. Bollards.


Single anchor. Heaving up the anchor. Leaving the anchorage.

Turning circle. Turning short round. Two anchors. Running moor.

Standing moor. Open moor. Anchor to assist berthing alongside.

Anchor used as an additional mooring. Dredging. Phraseology.



Using buoy equipment. Using ship’s equipment.


Types of tugs. Securing the tug. Number of tugs required.



Berthing. Head in. Approaching a berth stern-first. Swinging off the berth.

Finger berths. Departures. Moving within the harbour.



Visibility. Bridge wings. Indicators. Wheel-house. Noise.

Future improvements.


General. Simulators.



Why is a 4th Edition necessary?

When I wrote the First Edition of PSH in 1980 I was an experienced handler of ships and I piloted many more ships after that time. Ships have changed since 1980 but change has been a factor in ship characteristics for hundreds of years. Size is the most obvious change and in many cases larger ships are being handled in harbours that were designed for much smaller ships. This factor has been offset to some degree by changes in construction and equipment. The advice I gave in the first and subsequent editions of this book is still valid and will give a firm introduction to the art of ship handling. It is necessary for ships’ officers to have some knowledge of the subject so that they can be of assistance to the person who is handling the ship and so that they will be better prepared when they are faced with handling a ship themselves. It is hoped that this book will be of assistance to ships’ personnel and to pilots.

In my early days as master and as pilot, few ships were built or equipped to help the ship handler. Propellers and rudders were very basic; thrusters when fitted were of such low power that they were of limited help and were no substitute for a good tug. Propulsion and manoeuvrability of tugs has improved tremendously during and since my career as a pilot, but there are still tugs in service that are seriously handicapped by modern standards. The electronic equipment on board ships is changing and improving all the time, but not all ships are equipped as well as modern passenger ships and warships and it is still necessary for ship handlers to be able and prepared to handle ships with every level of electronic assistance. Generally speaking ships are constructed for travelling long distances as economically as possible; but the ability to stop in a short distance or to be manoeuvred in confined spaces is not always a priority in ship design. There are certain fundamentals that can be explained in connection with practical ship handling and there are principles, rules and theories that must be observed and understood. The ship handler cannot rely solely on electronic equipment or on what he was taught on a simulator.

This book as the name indicates, is about practical ship handling. There has been much scientific and mathematical research into pivot point, under keel clearance, interaction, stopping distances, turning circles and wind pressure effects, etc. A lot of theory can be learned from reading about research, but the ship handler cannot be making mathematical calculations while he is engaged in the practical execution of handling a ship.

Why does the word “Pilot” occur more than a hundred times in this book?

In every instance when describing ship handling I refer to the pilot as having the con and directing the operation because that is the most usual situation, but I am not forgetting that the master remains in command of the ship and I realize that sometimes someone else has the con even when a pilot is on board, but the comments regarding team work and cooperation and the dangers of interference are relevant whoever has the con. I could have used the term “ship handler” for the word “pilot”, but the verb “piloting” is usually used when referring to navigation in confined waters.

Some ship handling is part of a master’s every day activity, such as care of a ship in heavy weather, picking up and dropping off a pilot, and anchoring in some circumstances and these activities require skill and experience but in PSH I have concentrated on ship handling in the confines of pilotage waters which is a more specialized activity in the maritime profession and pilots are trained and experienced in this speciality. All the anchor work, and berthing examples that I describe in this book are manoeuvres that I have personally executed many times as a practical ship handler. It is not the usual or the normal function of a ship’s master to handle his own ship in confined waters such as harbours, rivers and canals and in many cases it is compulsory to engage a pilot. There are exceptions such as tug masters, ferry masters and masters with pilotage exemption certificates for certain ports. When I was master I held pilotage exemption certificates for several ports and my experience and success as a ship handling master was a big factor in my decision to become a pilot.

These exemptions involved oral and written examinations and a specified number of visits to the port as mate or master. Use of exemption certificates is usually restricted to handling ships of limited size and type registered in specific Flag States. As with any profession, not everyone is cut out to be a pilot, and a ship’s master has many other duties in addition to navigating his ship. A pilot is not distracted by other ship related matters that are always on the mind of the master. It is also true that a pilot’s qualifications are not limited to ship handling ability; local knowledge is extremely important and this includes all aspects of the pilotage district including tides, currents, weather, depth of water, capabilities of the local tugs, geographic features, emergency procedures, local signals and radio procedures, traffic such as tug and barge movements, ferries and recreational traffic. A master may be very familiar with his ship, but he cannot have complete up to date local knowledge and this is why many harbours and districts have compulsory pilotage.

Some ship owners and ship personnel try to downgrade the status of pilots and want the pilot relegated to a back seat on the navigating bridge and considered to be in a passive and advisory role; this practice does not take advantage of the pilot’s skill and knowledge and it prevents the pilot from increasing his own ship handling ability. Fortunately, the majority of masters welcome the pilot on board and are pleased to share responsibility with the pilot. I have heard officers claim that they could navigate a ship in and out of any port in the world without a pilot and perhaps they could but it would not be wise to do so. Some navigation in compulsory pilotage districts is similar to navigation and chart work practised by ships’ officers and masters in coastal waters but local knowledge is required in a pilotage district.

In some cases there is more than one pilot on board, either to maintain continuity on a long pilotage or because of local environmental concerns and regulations. Electronic instruments on the bridge have certainly made ship handling easier in some respects, especially when wind and weather are cooperative, but these instruments are not infallible and a ship handler must know basic procedures and precautions when he has the con of a ship. Pilots become proficient by handling different ships in different circumstances, but they need the support and cooperation of other personnel on the bridge. Sometimes bridge personnel is limited to the master and perhaps one other person. Not all ships have the numbers of people we see on warships and passenger liners. In previous editions of PSH I have emphasized the need for team work on the bridge and this teamwork has been given the name “Bridge Resource Management” or BRM. I can understand ships’ masters wanting to handle their own ships and with due respect to BRM, ship handling is an

individual activity that gives a lot of satisfaction for a job well done; but it is rather like a general practitioner craving to perform surgery. In the medical profession surgeons are specialists and in the maritime profession pilots are specialists. Of course the surgeon, too, has a team of very important people assisting him, but a surgeon would not be relegated to a passive and advisory role only to be called upon to help if his team suddenly needs him.

Throughout the book I refer to the ship handler as if he were always masculine, but of course I am well aware that the maritime profession is not limited to men; there are many women holding the positions of master and pilot and I should always have said “he or she”.


Title: Practical Ship Handling (eBook)
Edition: 4th Edition
Number of Pages: 128
Product Code: BF1010EA
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1-84927-084-7 (9781849270847), ISBN 10: 1-84927-084-8 (1849270848)
Published Date: October 2019
Author: Brown Son & Ferguson

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