Pilots are highly trained experts in ship navigation in specific waters and possess extensive knowledge of local conditions. Their role is to guide vessels safely and expeditiously though their area ensuring safety of the environment, people and trade. This is a highly responsible, difficult, demanding, and dangerous job. It is, however, rewarding and highly respected and pilots are considered the elite of the marine professionals.
Most often the pilot boards an inbound vessel from a pilot launch, by climbing a ladder rigged over the side of the vessel. Sometimes it is necessary to board by means of helicopter transfer. Both methods can be very hazardous.
Pilots work a roster that means they can be dispatched to a job at any time of night or day. The roster is designed to ensure adequately rested pilot personnel are available 24/7. They may work irregular hours, often at night and on week- ends and holidays.
Most countries have their own rules about who can become a pilot. In the majority of cases the candidate will have to hold a foreign going Masters licence and in this case, the best approach is to contact shipping companies who run large fleets. Precise prerequisites can vary from country to country. Many countries also insist that pilots should be a national of the country concerned although this not so everywhere. Be sure to make enquiries of the National authorities/Port you are interested in which you are considering becoming a pilot.