"[…] in all my experience I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea, […]. I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. […]. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." (Taken from an interview given by Capt. E. J. Smith in 1907, published by the New York Times on 16 April 1912 the day after the Titanic sank).
We shall never know whether these words betray an overweening confidence in mankind’s ability to sail the seas, a serious lack of information on the real maritime conditions of his day or simply a desire to reassure passengers…
In addition to training in more conventional ship handling operations, we at Port Revel are motivated by the best attitude to adopt in the face of an extremely rare and unforeseen event that may have disastrous consequences, such as a collision or grounding.
(download our paper on ship handling in emergency conditions)
Increasingly, captains and maritime pilots are facing charges for environmental disasters (Cosco Busan, San Francisco, 2007) or for loss of human life (Neftegaz-67, Hong Kong, 2008) in many parts of the world. It is a very unpleasant experience to be accused of negligence, and as stated by Sir Harry Gibbs of the High Court of Australia in 1982: "Where it is possible to guard against a foreseeable risk, which, though perhaps not great, nevertheless cannot be called remote or fanciful, by adopting a means, which involves little difficulty or expense, the failure to adopt such means will in general be negligent". Training is one such means and no effort should be spared to keep a pilot's skills at the very highest level. It is better to maximise skills in order to minimise risks rather than have to find a good lawyer... This is also hinted at in IMO's Resolution A.960 on training and certification of maritime pilots.
The European and North American pilots who make up 90% of the Centre's participants are well aware of this. Since 1967, the Centre, located near Grenoble, has trained over 7000 pilots, captains and officers from all over the world.