Pilot


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Pilot

In maritime law, a person who assumes responsibility for a vessel at a particular place for the purpose of navigating it through a river or channel, or from or into a port.

The captain, or master, of a large ship has total command in the high seas. However, when a ship enters or leaves a port, or enters a river or channel, the captain turns over navigation to a local pilot. Because of safety and commercial concerns, state and federal maritime law governs the licensing and regulation of pilots.

A docking pilot directs the tugboats that pull a ship from the pier. Once the ship has cleared the pier and is under way in the harbor, the docking pilot leaves the ship and turns navigation over to a harbor pilot. Every ship that enters and leaves a port must have a harbor pilot aboard. Once the ship reaches open water, a small boat picks up the harbor pilot and returns the pilot to port. The captain then resumes full command of the ship.

The harbor pilot must have a thorough knowledge of every channel, sandbar, and other obstacle that could run the ship aground, strike another ship, or cause an accident that would endanger the ship, its crew, its cargo, and any passengers on board. The pilot must also be an experienced sailor who knows how to maneuver a ship through crowded harbors.

Either the state or federal government licenses pilots to ensure that vessels will be prop-erly operated in state and U.S. waters. Federal law requires that federally registered pilots navigate ships on the Great Lakes, and state law regulates the need for pilots in bays, inlets, rivers, harbors, and ports. Where the waters are the boundary between two states, the owner of the ship can hire a pilot who has been licensed by either state to navigate the vessel to and from port.

State and federal laws impose qualifications for a pilot's license. A pilot must have the highest degree of skill as a sailor and may be tested on that knowledge. The individual may be required to submit written references from persons for whom he or she has served as an apprentice. In addition, the applicant must obtain a reference from a licensed pilot. The pilot may also be required to post a bond.

Once licensed, the pilot must act in a professional manner. A license can be revoked or suspended for adequate cause, such as when the pilot has operated the ship while intoxicated. The pilot has the right to appeal to a court an administrative body's decision to deny licensure or to impose discipline.

The legal rights and responsibilities of the harbor pilot's action in navigating vessels are well settled. The pilot has primary control of the navigation of the vessel, and the crew must obey any pilot order. The pilot is empowered to issue steering directions and to set the course and speed of the ship and the time, place, and manner of anchoring it. The captain is in command of the ship except for navigation purposes. The captain can properly assume command over the ship when the pilot is obviously incompetent or intoxicated.

The pilot must possess and exercise the ordinary skill and care of one who is an expert in a profession. A pilot can be held personally liable to the owners of the vessel and to other injured parties for damages resulting from Negligence that causes a collision. The pilot will be responsible for damages if his or her handling of the ship was unreasonable, according to persons of nautical experience and good seamanship, at the time of the accident. The negligence of a pilot in the performance of duty is a maritime tort within the jurisdiction of a court of admiralty, which deals only with maritime actions.

Cross-references

Admiralty and Maritime Law; Airlines.

See: administer, conduct, control, govern, manage, manipulate, moderate, officiate, operate, overlook, oversee, prescribe, preside, regulate, superintend

PILOT, mer. law. This word has two meanings. It signifies, first, an officer serving on board of a ship during the course of a voyage, and having the charge of the helm and of the ship's route; and, secondly, an officer authorized by law, who is taken on board at a particular place, for the purpose of conducting a ship through a river, road or channel, or from or into port.
     2. Pilots of the second description are established by legislative enactments at the principal seaports in this country, and have rights, and are bound to perform duties, agreeably to the provisions of the several laws establishing them.
     3. Pilots have been established in all maritime countries. After due trial and experience of their qualifications, they are licensed to offer themselves as guides in difficult navigation; and they are usually, on the other hand, bound to obey the call of a ship-master to exercise their functions. Abbott on Ship. 180; 1 John R. 305; 4 Dall. 205; 2 New R. 82; 5 Rob. Adm. Rep. 308; 6 Rob. Adm. R. 316; Laws of Oler. art. 23; Molloy, B. 2, c. 9, s. 3 and 7; Wesk. Ins. 395; Act of Congress of 7th August, 1789, s. 4; Merl. Repert. h.t.; Pardessus, n. 637.

References in classic literature ?
At noon next day, as the pilot had foretold, we were so near to the Black Mountain that we saw all the nails and iron fly out of the ships and dash themselves against the mountain with a horrible noise.
When I reached the top I found the brass dome and the statue exactly as the pilot had described, but was too wearied with all I had gone through to do more than glance at them, and, flinging myself under the dome, was asleep in an instant.
Passepartout, who heard what passed, would willingly have embraced the pilot, while Fix would have been glad to twist his neck.
The pilot probably does not know to this day why his responses won him this enthusiastic greeting.
When the young man on board saw this person approach, he left his station by the pilot, and, hat in hand, leaned over the ship's bulwarks.
Usanga did not see him, being too intent upon the unaccustomed duties of a pilot, but the blacks across the meadow saw him and they ran forward with loud and savage cries and menacing rifles to intercept him.
The tide's right, and we'll have you docked in two hours," the pilot vouchsafed, with an effort at cheeriness.
The peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain sufficed for many thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than I knew.
But you, sir, that was to pilot us, have ye never a word?
But I was too imbecile, although I knew it to be he, to separate him from his dress; and tried to call him, I remember, PILOT.
The way was wet and dismal, and the night so black, that if Mr Willet had been his own pilot, he would have walked into a deep horsepond within a few hundred yards of his own house, and would certainly have terminated his career in that ignoble sphere of action.
Being now come to the latitude of 30 degrees, we resolved to put into the first trading port we should come at; and standing in for the shore, a boat came of two leagues to us with an old Portuguese pilot on board, who, knowing us to be an European ship, came to offer his service, which, indeed, we were glad of and took him on board; upon which, without asking us whither we would go, he dismissed the boat he came in, and sent it back.