||Capt. R. W. Rowe, FNI
||The Nautical Institute
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The skill of a good shiphandler should never be underestimated. This is because they can achieve consistency in performance and control even though no two dockings are ever exactly the same. Similarly the range of variable considerations which have to be taken into account when planning, predicting, monitoring and manoeuvring means the shiphandler is constantly having to reassess progress. The competent shiphandler has to be aware of wind and weather, current and tidal changes. In most berth approaches, shallow water and interaction effects will also have to be taken into account. There is the range, type, availability and efficiency of tugs to be considered. Also, the availability and aptitude of the personnel on each ship has to be assessed for their ability to handle tow lines and mooring lines. All these factors effect ship manoeuvres which in a tidal regime have to be completed within limited time windows: so adding to the sense of anxiety should anything go wrong. We can start to see that the qualities demanded of a good shiphandler are considerably greater than those required in other modes of transport. They must be competent in the sense that they are trained and know what they intend to achieve. They must be able to exercise judgement and be flexible in their outlook to adjust to changing circumstances. They must be able to communicate effectively: they must be able to stay calm under pressure and solve problems with authority when the situation requires it, and they have to be experienced. Shiphandling is teamwork and for teamwork to be successful there has to be a general understanding amongst pilots, masters, tug masters, ships officers and dock masters about the principles of shiphandling and the factors which influence manoeuvring.