What is a Maritime Pilot?
A maritime or marine pilot boards ocean-going vessels such as freighters, tankers, and passenger liners at anchor in the ports or on the open sea near the entrance to designated bar or bay crossings. After making their way to the bridge of the vessel, the pilot issues navigation instructions to the bridge crew and guides the vessel safely through traffic, rocks, reefs, shoals and narrow channels to its destination. Pilots assume significant responsibility, and the occupation can be dangerous, as climbing ship ladders includes an element of risk.
The federal government defers to the maritime states pilotage in their territorial waters. A state pilot is a highly regulated occupation, with the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots regulating the requirements for selection, training, and education, and setting the salary of Oregon licensees.
How to Become a Pilot
The piloting profession is widely considered the pinnacle of a maritime career, but there is no direct path to becoming a pilot. There are no "pilot" schools or any training system that takes an unfamiliar person off the street and turns them into a maritime pilot.
To become a maritime pilot, the first step is to be a professional mariner with drive and determination. Some pilots have had careers on ocean-going vessels, while others had careers on inland vessels such as tugs and barges. Individuals interested in a maritime career many times begin at a maritime academy or vocational training school.
In Oregon, only individuals who have experience and can demonstrate knowledge of currents, tides, soundings, bearings, and distances of shoals, rocks, bars, points of landings, lights and fog signals can direct a large vessel on certain waters of the State.
Pilots are appointed by the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots from a list of candidates ranked according to the procedures listed in our rules and outlined in the Instructions and Information for submitting an application. The highest scoring candidate is selected when it is determined there is a need for a new pilot.