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Maritime Pilotage

For five weeks now, Spain has been in the throes of an Estado de Alarma (State of Emergency) and will continue to be so at least until 24h00, January 15th. The decree by the Spanish government was declared on December 3rd and was published in the Boletín Oficial de Estado on December 4th, in an extra special BOE edition. This decree may well suspend some normal functions of Spain’s executive, legislative and judicial powers and thus, the citizen’s democratic rights and well-being. I don’t like it at all. To me, it does not smell right. Spain’s political period under Franco still does not seem completely overcome. Even though, one does not read much about it in the papers. It all relates back to a provoked but, unofficial walk-out of a large number of air traffic controllers, all over Spain, just as thousands of air travellers were about to embark on a long puente weekend vacation, remember? Spanish air traffic control has been under military command since December 4th, and so are the controllers. Anyone of them not succumbing to the armed forces’ orders will be considered rebellious and punished for mutiny. I understand that court proceedings have started against the so-called ring leaders.

No such industrial action was ever taken, to my knowledge, by the Spanish maritime pilots. As a matter of fact, most people never seem to give the harbour traffic controllers much thought. There are necessities, however, to navigate large vessels and ferries, cruise liners, tankers and other mercantile freight ships in and out of the domestic harbours in a safe way and manner. Spain with its Mediterranean and Atlantic islands has an abundance of commercial ports and each and every one of those has a number of navigation pilots on duty. In Mallorca, there are two such ports with a presence of perhaps eight to ten prácticos, as they are called in Castilian, six of them in Palma alone. The second Mallorcan port with such requirements and the according facilities is the Port d’Alcúdia. Large ships are met out in the sea by a prácticos (pilot) boat, approximately one nautical mile from the ports of Palma or Alcúdia, as the case may be. I am not aware that Mallorca’s maritime pilotage is currently under military rule and let’s hope it never will be.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of and the photographer, Manuel Aguilera.

Muchas gracias.

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January 2011


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