Becoming a pilot

Hello shipmates!

I really want to become a harbor pilot. I have advanced from AB to 3/O and am currently sailing on my license. I’ve heard its insanely difficult (unless you have a connection) to become a pilot. If I stick around and gain WAY more experience i.e. sail to captain. Is there any good prospect of becoming a pilot. How hard is it really? Thank you!

First thing first. Are you American? If not what is your nationality?

I am American.

That depends on where you want to be a pilot. Some pilot organizations have maximum ages of trainees, others require you to hold unlimited master and have sailed as captain.

Some require a state test, like Florida, highest score gets in. They will make announcements from time to time when they are testing and for what port… Many more go by votes and your qualifications , experience. Some have apprenticeships from 1.5 to 6 years. It won’t be easy,but doable. Just a reminder, a Federal License only allows you to pilot USA vessels, not foreign. You will have to get a state license for most ports before you finish apprentice. Associated Federal Pilots of Louisiana are one exception, but they can only handle USA stuff. Some have a “Buy In” for a share of the group once you get cleared. $$$$$$ Can’t tell you what that number is, been away for a while. As Phoenix said, some have maximum age limit.

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I heard in some places the only way to get in is through nepotism, so you might get in if you go on tinder and match with a current pilot’s son or daughter.


That won’t be too easy either. LOL

The two largest groups on the west coast (Puget Sound and SF) require sea service as master (not just the license) but other than that, are “open” in that the testing to get in doesn’t require any connection to the current pilots - very similar to Florida.

That being said, there is major turnover in both groups right now due to retirements and after all is said and done, they’ll probably lock back down for awhile as there will be a much younger pilot corps. Luck of timing is also a big factor in becoming a state pilot.

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Yes it can be very difficult! Get as much experience as you can. You will have to decide what port you want and once you do that, start doing your homework on what they have for minimum requirements, all are different. Florida does require everyone to test, and it’s no joke from what I have been told, you’ll study more then you ever have. Just because you get the highest score, does not guarantee you get the spot in Florida either. Regardless, when you choose the port you want, get in touch with the association and start to build a relationship with them!

Since when?

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I’ve been out of the industry for quite a while. The candidates that tested and had the highest score got in, including two former captains I sailed with in two different ports, Tampa and Miami. What has changed and what criteria keeps the top scorer out? This is new to me.

It’s new to you that politics and nepotism are involved at some pilot associations? Really?

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We’re talking about Florida here, which this is not the case. Strictly based off testing and highest score. They still have a minority clause that they no longer follow because a white guy scored highest and a minority was picked over him but then when the state was sued over that they shut it down.

Highest score takes the spot, but sometimes a spot never ends up opening up.

Give me some credit JD, nepotism is alive and well and very much rampant in many ports and has been standard practice for many,many years, politics not withstanding… Nothing new here, but the system in Florida appeared to take that part of it away. Perhaps that has changed since I have been sailing. I don’t know, but that was my question, how does the highest scorer get knocked out and under what criteria in Florida? Nobody answered that.

After reading ItsJodys post , everyone gets a trophy. No nepotism, but politics. Both suck. Why even take the test other than to get your name in the pot? If that’s true, Florida failed at what they were trying to prevent.

Florida is based on multiple factors, which some are definitely arbitrary by the panel: obviously they take the highest scores that factor in, but they also take your license, sea time and experience in the model, which can be seen through different eyes.

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I was under the impression that the decisions based off license, sea time, and experience were first discussed/analyzed during the application process which would then lead to a test approval. Could be wrong. Thanks for the info.

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There is a minimum to be able to sit and test, after that it comes down to a complete package. If you have a 2nd mate with 4 years, get a 99, or a Captain with 15 years get a 98, who would you take.

Agreed but I’ve always been told highest score and that’s that. Maybe I’ve just gotten bad info.

They take the highest score. Why else would it be scored to the hundredth of a decimal point?

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