Saturday, January 28

First woman river pilot to start guiding ships soon

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After six months, Reshma Nilofer Naha will be piloting ships from sea to the Kolkata port. She will be the world’s first woman river pilot to do this. She will pilot ships through a distance of 223km, of which, 148km will be up the Hooghly – considered to be one of the most treacherous with its sharp ‘bars and bends’. Reshma, originally from Chennai, is now undergoing training at the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT).

“The role of river pilots is crucial as they have knowledge of the river and can guide the ships into port. We have 67 river pilots in service and Reshma will start her job soon,” KoPT chairman Vinit Kumar said.

Reshma, a BSc (Nautical Science) graduate, was recruited by KoPT in 2011. According to JJ Biswas, director, marine department, KoPT, she also has a year’s experience at sea as a cadet. “After joining KoPT, she obtained the 2nd and 1st mates competency certificates from the Directorate General of Shipping. Recently, she cleared the Grade III Part-I examination from KoPT. In the next six months, she will qualify as a Grade III pilot,” he added.

As a Grade III pilot, Reshma will initially be assigned smaller vessels. Later, as she gets more experienced, she will graduate to Grade II and Grade I and take charge of large ships like Panamax vessels – nearly 300m-long with a capacity of 70,000 tonnes or more.

All ships calling on the ports of Kolkata or Haldia have to contact the pilot station on Sagar Island when they approach the Sandheads. From the Sandheads to the pilot boarding point at Sagar, remote pilotage is provided to the ships using Vessel Traffic Management System guidance. At a spot known as Middleton Point, a pilot vessel rendezvous with a ship and the pilot gets on board. The pilot is in charge till the ship reaches Kolkata and the harbour pilot takes over.

“The river has several sandbars and bends. A river pilot knows the channel along which the ship has to move to avoid getting stranded. Draught is also a problem and there is little scope of manoeuvring. The pilots make best use of the tides to guide ships in. People without training and experience along the river cannot handle ships,” another official said.

Source: Times of India

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