Nederlands Loodswezen

Reliable communication for the Pilotage Service

The port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe. The Rotterdam-Rijnmond Pilotage Service pilots around 56,000 ships smoothly and safely in and out of the ports every year with 220 independent professional pilots. In this busy area, full of terminals, refineries and chemical plants, 400-metre seagoing vessels enter the port in all weathers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Communication between the pilots and tugboats is essential here.

Smooth and safe traffic policy for the Pilotage Service

No day is ever the same for a pilot. They sail on many hundreds of ships, all of which have different sailing and manoeuvring characteristics. The pilots steer the huge ocean-going vessels into port through the deep Euro channel and everyone knows that the last 500 metres to the quay are often more critical than 500 miles at sea. Arno explains: “The smooth and safe entry of seagoing vessels requires a great deal of knowledge and experience. Weather conditions, currents, busy inland waterway traffic and time pressure make it complex. Reliable communication is crucial here. We communicate from two-way radio to two-way radio with the tugs, rowers and Rotterdam Port Authority (RPA). Everyone has their own two-way radio with call sign and we communicate on special private channels so that we are not disturbed by other vessel users. We give short and concise orders to the tugboat so that we know what to expect from each other. Speed of communication is extremely important in the maritime world. When I am standing on the bridge of a big container ship of 400 metres, I can’t see the tugboat and I rely on reliable communication by two-way radio. The technical lifespan of the two-way radios was coming to an end, so we were looking for new two-way radios that would be just as reliable and durable.”

“Flash understands the Rotterdam port like no other, they are also physically located there and understand the mentality. All I have to do is call or email and they are ready to help us.”

Technical lifespan of two-way radios

The maritime world has traditionally been analogue and will not switch to digital communication quickly. Arno explains: “With digital communication you have a delay and analogue means direct communication. The analogue connection is always good and we must be able to switch quickly. Of course, we sometimes have problems because on the bridge of a ship in a steel cage construction 30 metres above the sea, the connection is sometimes poor. Then, I literally have to look for a good location to get a better connection. We are now looking into remote speaker mics with wind noise cancelling. The wind often blows into the microphone and then it’s hard to be heard. We tested the mics and with this new function it works much better. We opted for the most comprehensive two-way radio with two versions: one with a numeric keypad and one with a rotary switch for the manual selection of channels; that preference is personal. Flash always provides good information about the use of the two-way radios and charging the batteries. The new two-way radios require some adjustments on the part of the user, and Flash helps to clarify that.”

Knowledge is strength

The duties of the Pilotage Service in Dutch and Flemish seaports are essential, especially given the prominent position that the Netherlands occupies in the international transport of goods and the shipping industry. As self-employed professionals, the pilots are the only ones authorised in the Netherlands to pilot seagoing vessels. With up-to-date knowledge of tides, current flows, procedures, traffic flows, ports and berths, the pilot is the advisor to a captain. Arno explains: “Flash understands the Rotterdam port like no other, they are also physically located there and understand the mentality. All I have to do is call or email and they are ready to help us. Sander’s role as advisory account manager is especially key here. Flash is always easy to reach, customer-friendly and has competitive prices.”

Analogue two-way radios for the Pilotage Service

Sander Berkhout: “All registered pilots make a major contribution to the success of the ports 24 hours a day. After thirteen years, the fleet of two-way radios was due for replacement. The request was to have a robust device that works in extreme weather conditions, with the highest standard of dust and water resistance, which still functions after two hours under two metres of water. The new Motorola DP4801E meets these requirements and we started testing it at the training centre at Maasvlakte KCLW. At the training centre, we simulated a situation where this device went overboard and was underwater for two hours. A diver pulled it out of the water and after two hours it was still working perfectly.”

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