Pilotage for Dummies

I’m trying to learn more about Pilotage and how to earn/document it, I hold Master 1600/2nd Mate. I am particularly interested in rivers, I know I would have to document “trips” but how many miles is a trip? What part of a River or body of water would that trip need to be on? The Tennessee River is 652 miles, can the trip be on any of it? Can the trip be on any vessel? Is there a CFR or other guiding document for this?

There is no “pilotage” on the western rivers above Baton Rouge. If you are on a tow you need a western rivers endorsement, if not on tow people use inland licenses.

In a recent discussion with a Captain he state he was “posted” on the Tennessee and the lower Mississippi. Isn’t that pilotage?

I would assume posted is a phrase used in the inland tow sector that is there way of saying they are familiar with the area of work on the Tennessee/Ohio etc… I know company’s look for “trip pilots” with experience on certain rivers but there is no correlation with the “pilotage” that you are speaking of.

To answer another part of your question if you would like information on pilotage requirements for a route that falls under pilotage the local REC will inform you of the requirements for a specific area. The requirements differ from port to port.

First class pilotage ends at the Baton Rouge mile marker. “Posted” is an internal term used within companies when they cut loose a pilot or captain on a specific route.

As far as below Baton Rouge, the river is split up into section from SW pass up to Baton Rouge and you need X amount of trips with a certain amount being night transits per each section of river to be able to submit approval to draw charts for that particular section of river.

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Thanks again, I had been contacted by American Queen Voyages about a Pilot position but after a good chat about getting Pilotage they ghosted me. I work offshore now and a big beautiful riverboat sounded good, I’ve got some River experience but nothing to earn pilotage.

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Are you sure they weren’t offering you a job as Mate? On the western rivers, mates are often called pilots.




American Queen Voyages

Maine, United States

23 days ago



The Pilot will oversee the smooth operation of the vessel with compliance to all Federal, State and local laws and

regulations. This position is ultimately responsible for the safety and security of all persons onboard the vessel,

while on watch. The Pilot has authority and responsibility for taking all necessary actions for safety, pollution

prevention and the efficient operation of the vessel under the guidance of the Captain.


· Responsible for the safety of passengers and crew and the safe operation of the vessel

· Report defects and other matters with implications for safe operations or pollution risk

· Report non-conformities, accidents and injuries involving personnel or equipment and hazardous situations to the Captain

· Serve as Officer in charge of the navigational watch

· Request assistance from AQSC as may be deemed necessary to ensure safe and pollution free operation on the ship

· Prepare, in consultation with the vessel Captain, detailed schedules for future itineraries and then advise the vessel Captain of any unduly high speed or impractical arrival times, etc. that become apparent

· Monitor the operational condition of all navigation instruments, instigating corrective action when necessary

· Always observe weather and river conditions closely and take proper actions when necessary, while communicating such actions to the vessel Captain

· Advise the vessel Captain of unusual delays and/or causes with revised ETA’s for the port of call

· With the assistance of the vessel’s Mates, ensure that all docking locations are secure and meet requirements set forth

· Proper completion & entries to the official logbook

· Properly manage & complete daily reporting requirements

· Protect the environment and comply with all applicable environmental regulations

· Respond to all General Alarms and emergency situations per the Station Bill

· Participate and ensure participation of all USCG mandated drills and emergency procedures as directed

· Actively participates in embarking duties such as loading, unloading, luggage carrying, etc., as needed

· Performs other duties if required since above stated describe only a regular working day and may not be inclusive of every task needed to achieve results




· HS Diploma or Equivalent Required

· Bachelor’s degree in related field preferred

Professional Certification(s) or License:

· USCG license which satisfies COI requirements of applicable vessel – for the American Empress, this is a 500 Ton Master Inland

· FCC Marine Radio Operations license

· Radar certification (endorsement necessary as per vessel)

· First Class Pilotage on LMR below Baton Rouge is preferred but not required

· Valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) - ability to obtain and maintain

· Valid Merchant Marine Credential (MMC)

· Valid State ID

· Copy of DD214, if Veteran status

Skills & Abilities:

· Excellent verbal and written communication skills; must be fluent in English

· Route knowledge – posted on vessel route preferred

· Ability to interact with individuals at all levels in a pleasant and professional manner

· Must possess leadership qualities with the ability to give employees sound instructions

· Computer literate with skills in Word, Excel, and Power Point, depending on vessel


· At least five years of experience in position with similar duties and responsibilities

· Cruise industry experience preferred

· Minimum of 5 years’ experience handling a vessel of comparable size or large tow; 1 year of which on a Bessel with Z Drive propulsion preferred, depending on vessel

· Other ship handling, maneuvering, fleeting and harbor work may be considered for total experience requires, depending on vessel

· Minimum of 3 years in a leadership or supervisory role is preferred

· Passenger vessel industry experience preferred


· Must submit to and pass mandated USCG physical

· Ability to meet and maintain the maximum onboard bunk bed capacity of 300 lbs.

· Ability to conduct work in a marine environment that is subject to some/all the following: confined spaces, uneven surfaces, variations in temperature, wake, and motion

· Ability to lift and carry up to 50 lbs.

· Ability to climb stairs and ladder

Job Information

  • Job ID: 62140267
  • Location:
    Maine, United States
    New York, United States
    California, United States

Yes, that’s what it was. The position is called Pilot which means “boat driver” included in our discussion was the importance and process of getting pilotage. Although I haven’t heard from them since the idea of throwing off the lines, sounding the whistle and watching that paddle wheel turn still thrills me so I’m trying to learn what I can about obtaining pilotage. Always good to learn.

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I don’t think they would necessarily call it “offering” me the position, but person primarily responsible for safe navigation of the vessel would be a good description.

I am sure the American Empress is probably manned differently but in my brief time on a towboat on the Mississippi & Ohio Rivers they stood 6 & 6 in the wheelhouse. It was split between the Captain and the “Pilot”.

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They have mates and they have pilots. They’re two separate jobs.

The American Empress runs the Columbia and Snake rivers. On the Western Rivers it’s American Duchess, American Countess and the Steamboat American Queen. All are unlimited tonnage.