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January 16, 2021

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Plight of brave pilots servicing foreign ships

BRAVING a temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius, pilots climb up rope ladders nearly 20 meters long to reach the deck of the ships they are expected to guide through waters in and around Tianjin port.

Chinese laws prescribe compulsory piloting for foreign ships entering or exiting ports in the country. Pilotage is also a practical need for foreign ships at Tianjin port, which is noted for its busy and complicated shipping lanes.

Pilots are subject to great occupational hazards, particularly when they have to reach the ship decks from helicopters or tugboats by rope ladders in bad weather. Enabling a ship of thousands of tons in capacity to dock with centimeter-grade precision is a challenge not only to a pilot’s knowledge and experience but more to his or her physical limits.

The 136-strong pilot team at Tianjin port, a world-level seafaring hub, is responsible for pilotage service to all foreign ships sailing through the port around the clock, winter or summer, rain or shine.


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