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Improving shipping safety in NSW: New health standard for marine pilots

Navigating some of the world’s largest ships safely in and out of NSW’s ports is a highly complicated task. Marine pilots are safety critical workers, who use their extensive knowledge of local waterways, ship handling and navigation to bring vessels to berth safely, protecting the environment and port infrastructure.

The health of marine pilots is an important consideration for public safety, property, economic prosperity and the environment, as well as for the work health and safety of themselves and their fellow workers.

The initial Standard for Health Assessment of Marine Pilots was introduced in 2009 and is revised every 5 years. The Standard for Health Assessment of Marine Pilots 2016 (the Standard) has now been released, reflecting the most current medical knowledge and understanding of the impact of specific health conditions on safe working performance. The Standard also takes into consideration recent safety investigations.

The Standard is a performance-based standard which ensures pilots are fit for duty and capable of carrying out the inherent requirements of the pilotage job at the time of licensing and the duration of their employment as a pilot.

The revised standard is the result of extensive research and input from a wide range of stakeholders including the Port Authority of NSW, NSW Marine Pilots, Sydney Pilots Service and the Australian Maritime Officers Union. Transport for NSW also appoint Authorised Health Professionals to conduct health assessments of marine pilots in line with the Standard.

The Standard has five parts:

Part A – This is an introduction that explains how the health assessment works, and how it fits in with the Marine Safety Act 1998, and regulations related to that, as well as the NSW Marine Pilotage Code.

Part B – This section describes the overall health assessment system, including the timing and frequency of health assessments, reporting on the pilot’s fitness for duty, and the auditing of authorised health professionals trained to undertake health assessments of marine pilots.

Part C – This section covers the inherent requirements of marine pilots and the health attributes required to perform this task. Included in this list is the requirement for the pilot to have a psychometrically and neurologically sound and alert mind, good hearing and speech, good day, night and colour vision, and good musculoskeletal strength. The pilot must also have good cardiovascular health and not have had an epilepsy event for the past 10 years.

Part D –This section covers guidance to Authorised Health Professionals (AHP) conducting health assessments of marine pilots. This includes clinical assessment of physical and psychological wellbeing for the pilots.

Part E –This part sets out the medical criteria that are applied in judging the pilot’s fitness for duty.

Find out more on the NSW Freight Website