A maritime pilot, marine pilot, harbor pilot, port pilot, ship pilot, bar pilot, or simply pilot, is a person who maneuvers ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbors or river mouths. They are navigational experts possessing knowledge of the particular waterway such as its depth, currents, and hazards.
The work functions of the pilot go back to the Ancient Greece and Roman times, when locally experienced harbour captains, mainly local fishermen, were employed by incoming ships’ captains to bring their trading vessels into port safely.
While the ships’ captain are in-charge of ships, the pilot remains aboard as an important and indispensable consultant of the master. Only in transit of the Panama Canal and in Canada does the pilot have the full responsibility for the navigation of the vessel.
Normally, the pilot joins an incoming ship prior to the ship’s entry into the shallow water at the designated “pilot boarding area” via helicopter or pilot boat and climbs a pilot ladder sometimes more than 40 feet (~12 metres) to the deck of different types of ships. Climbing the pilot ladder can be dangerous, even more so in rough seas considering that both the ship to be piloted and the pilot’s own vessel are usually moving.
Life of a maritime pilot has always remained a mystery, ordinary people doesn’t know much about this profession.
So, let us have a look at how it feels to be a maritime pilot.