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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.


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 periodicals archive ?
A British security source said: "Until just a few years ago, it was unthinkable that pilotless planes would be used to track terrorists and criminals.
According to ITAR-Tass, he joked that "as for the Israeli pilotless aircraft, we will work on them like the Chinese do" - a suggestion that China uses military technology it acquires from other nations to improve its own capabilities.
DARPA initiated the program under the former Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems program, which was aimed at creating small pilotless bomber aircraft.
Defence secretary Geoff Hoon at the Farnborough International Airshow yesterday, where he announced that French company Thales, which has a base at St Asaph, is likely to win a major contract to supply pilotless aircraft for British forces
THE US has unveiled a futuristic robot plane designed to survive the rigours of combat, unlike other pilotless drones which have crashed on the front lines of the war on terrorism.
This excellent pocket sized book--which has received national media attention--covers 40 worst case scenarios we might find ourselves in, including: How to get out of a sinking car, how to land a pilotless plane, how to escape a bear, how to hot wire a car, how to escape quicksand how to fend off a shark, how to deal with a downed power line and the ever popular how to deliver a baby in a taxi.
Is there anywhere you spend time--at a three-hour movie, in a soccer stadium, strapped inside a pilotless ValueJet--where you experience as much physical discomfort as you do while attending Mass each Sunday?
And the remote-controlled vehicle is pilotless, so it can fly into military zones without risking lives.
DARPA is the central research and development (R&D) agency in the Department of Defense, and has pioneered major technological breakthroughs such as the internet, stealth aircraft, smart bombs and the pilotless Predator aircraft.
In August an Israeli Hermes drone was shot down in the vicinity of Baghdad Airport, the second such loss in less than three days after another Israeli pilotless drone of the same model was shot down by Iranian troops in the Central parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the local media reported that US pilotless drones took part in the operation.
The district's admnistrative chief, Muhamamd Azeem Fareed, told Pajhwok the pilotless crashed in the vicinity of Pae More this afternoon.