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.

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 ?
The pilot probably does not know to this day why his responses won him this enthusiastic greeting.
"You saved yourself," he insisted, "for had you been unable to pilot the plane, I could not have helped you, and now," he said, "you two have the means of returning to the settlements.
Smith-Oldwick pressed the ape-man's hand and clambered into the pilot's seat.
He glanced forward at Usanga and then, placing his mouth close to the girl's ear he cried: "Have you ever piloted a plane?" The girl nodded a quick affirmative.
The pilot ejaculated an oath of amazement and horror.
The taste of the land was strong in the men's mouths, and strong it was in the skipper's mouth as he muttered a gruff good day to the departing pilot, and himself went down to his cabin.
An' then: 'Our nautical adviser suggests you kept too far south,' an' 'We are lookun' for better results from thot propeller.' Nautical adviser!--shore pilot! Ut was the regular latitude for a wunter passage from Voloparaiso tull Sydney.
He came last from Astrakhan, and was designed to go to Tonquin, where I formerly knew him, but has altered his mind, and is now resolved to go with the caravan to Moscow, and so down the river Volga to Astrakhan."--"Well, Seignior," says I, "do not be uneasy about being left to go back alone; if this be a method for my return to England, it shall be your fault if you go back to Macao at all." We then went to consult together what was to be done; and I asked my partner what he thought of the pilot's news, and whether it would suit with his affairs?
Having resolved upon this, we agreed that if our Portuguese pilot would go with us, we would bear his charges to Moscow, or to England, if he pleased; nor, indeed, were we to be esteemed over- generous in that either, if we had not rewarded him further, the service he had done us being really worth more than that; for he had not only been a pilot to us at sea, but he had been like a broker for us on shore; and his procuring for us a Japan merchant was some hundreds of pounds in our pockets.
I gave the custom-house officers a copy of our bill of lading; and as to the other papers, they sent a man off with the pilot, to whom I gave them."
So saying, the pilot began to weep afresh, and the crew, fearing their last hour had come, made their wills, each one in favour of his fellow.
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.