National Maritime Center Considers Limited License for Docking Pilots

Friday, January 14, 2000
The USCG's National Maritime Center (NMC) is seeking comments from the harbor services industry on a proposed limited first class pilot's license for docking pilots. Docking pilots, working with tugs, provide maneuvering assistance to seagoing vessels during docking and undocking procedures, short harbor moves to and from anchorage, or shifting between berths. The regulations concerning the issuance of first class pilot's licenses contain some requirements that may bar many tug masters from qualifying for the license. The regulations stipulate an individual must serve 18 months on vessels over 1,600 gross tons. In a limited number of ports, the USCG can require the sea service requirements be met with service aboard a self-propelled vessel. The USCG has permitted tug masters to combine the tonnage of a tug and barge unit to satisfy the 1,600 ton requirement. Over the last two years, several Regional Examination Centers adopted a more literal interpretation of the regulations and would not allow tug masters to apply for a first class pilot's license, on the grounds the sea service was not accrued aboard a self-propelled vessel. The impact of this rigid interpretation would preclude some companies from recruiting individuals from tugboats for their docking/harbor apprenticeship pilot program. Following a thorough review of apprenticeship training programs, the NMC proposed "trips" be used as the qualifying factor for docking/harbor pilots, as opposed to 18 months sea service time. Additionally, the NMC acknowledged the combined tonnage of the tug/barge unit satisfied the 1,600 gross ton threshold. NMC's proposed policy takes into consideration the individual's service aboard a tugboat, route experience and the volume and complexity of traffic in the port for which a first class license is sought. An applicant who secures a docking pilot's license may increase the geographic scope of that license by completing the required number of trips and passing an examination.
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