Cruise ships calling in Norway have been struggling with a shortage of pilots the last couple weeks, causing some delays and even cancelled calls. Norway requires pilots aboard ships of more than 70 meters in length, unless they obtain a pilot exemption certificate, which can be given to officers for certain areas if they have actual expertise in navigating safety along that coast.

Last year (2010) there were some 45,000 pilot assignments and 46.000 pilot exemptions voyage certificates granted. This year, with traffic up, there were almost twice as many pilot assignments in July as in February, due to increased cruise traffic and other seasonal traffic, which in turn has led to a shortage of pilots in the high season, according to the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

The Administration can also grant specific exemptions based on the crew’s competence and knowledge of the waters and cargo and usually grant 1,500 such applications each year. This year, two to three times more exemptions have been granted, which the administration called “not desirable and also not dramatic.”

There are also more than 22,000 navigational aid devices along the coast to assist in providing safe navigation. Ships are divided into categories based on risk and the highest risk level are larger vessels and those transporting hazardous or polluting cargo, and those with passengers.

With a seafloor of mostly hard rock, navigational errors can produce brutal consequences, the Administration noted in a statement. There are also many narrow straits that are difficult to navigate and there are places where oncoming traffic is difficult to navigate, requiring local knowledge. Thus, Norway has had a pilot requirement since 1720.

The Administration said it will work “to meet the requirements of increased traffic while maintaining its objectives that there will no maritime accidents in Norway that entail loss of life, serious injury or pollution.”