January 2022

Second Edition: Pilots’ Pocket Guide and Checklist

pilot vessel

The British Tugowners Association (BTA) in collaboration with the UK Chamber of Shipping has launched its new Pilots’ Pocket Guide and Checklist.

Harbour towage is a potentially hazardous business and should not be undertaken unless there has been a proper assessment of the risks involved. Good communication by all parties, proper planning with an understanding of what can go wrong and good seamanship are critical in ensuring that the risks are minimised.

Thorough training and appropriate experience are also essential in ensuring that the professionals involved are competent. To assist in this process, this guide aims to support pilots and PEC holders in their daily task. It draws on industry best practice and uses checklists, coupled with guidance, to provide a handy pocket aide memoire for those responsible for directing tugs during harbour towage.

The guide has been written by members of the British Tugowners Association in conjunction with the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association in order to promote and improve safety in harbour towage.

This second edition introduces a range of new content, including:


  • Greater emphasis on development of the pilotage plan for shared mental model between all crews
  • Improved two-stage checklists
  • Vessel familiarisation and liaison groupings
  • Closed-Loop Communications to protect against false mutual understandings for safety critical information
  • Value of briefings and de-briefings (work as done as compared to work as imagined)
  • Breaking down best practice by period of operation, eg Pre-Arrival or Making Fast and Manoeuvre
  • Correct reporting of dangerously weighted heaving lines
  • Importance of tow points and the risk of girting


Jon Hawkins, Technical Chair of the British Tugowners Association said:

“I am really pleased we have been able to launch the Second Edition, which builds on the first, add increased emphasis on focusing on value of teamwork, closed loop communications, having a shared mental model, and liaison meetings. Tugs and pilots work together and we believe this guide with further improve safety through better teamwork. I would like to thank those who assisted with the guide, with particular mention going to the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association, Workboat Association and Shipowners P&I for their input.”

Hywel Pugh, Chairman of the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association commented:

“A good aid memoire for all pilots to carry, the new edition has got more detail covering the whole range of Harbour towage and Escort towage Do’s and Do Not’s.  Readability through highlighted bullet points is very good with key points quick to find. The key “Do Nots” are clear simple and imperative. A great companion to have with you.” 

The BTA firmly believes in Safer Pilotage and Towage through collaborative working and encourages uptake and use of the Guide.