Pilots on Water Vessels Job Description video

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Imagine driving a vehicle longer than 3 football fields. Then imagine trying to parallel park it. Pilots of water vessels meet that kind of challenge everyday, guiding enormous commercial ships and tankers safely from sea, to busy port, and back again. Unlike the captain and crew, who travel with their ship, the pilot is usually stationed at the port. When a ship needs to enter…or leave…the harbor, the pilot is sent aboard to safely navigate it through the local waterways. Although helicopters are sometimes used, the pilot usually takes a small “pilot boat” to board incoming ships. Getting from boat to ship is tricky business. The pilot boat must maintain the exact same speed as the larger vessel as it travels alongside. Like a Hollywood stuntman, the pilot boards the ship by ladder, while both vessels are moving! On the bridge, the pilot takes over navigational control. That means giving steering and engine orders to the ship’s personnel. Drawing on a vast and detailed knowledge of local water depths, winds, tides, currents, and hazards, the pilot guides the ship into port. Once there, the pilot maneuvers in tight quarters, and may direct tugboats to help ease the ship into its berth. It takes years of experience and study to become a licensed pilot. Those entering training programs are already highly specialized professional mariners, usually ship captains or senior deck officers. They learn and hone piloting skills in the classroom, in simulators, and on-board vessels of all types before being granted a state license. They're expected to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as well. Pilots are on call 24-7 every day of the year in all weather conditions. Their maritime skills and ability to make quick decisions…often under intense pressure…are highly valued by seamen the world over.

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