A pilot is a mariner who guides ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbours or river mouths. Pilots are expert ship handlers who possess in depth knowledge of local waterways. Pilots are responsible under the law and maritime custom for conducting the safe navigation of the vessel. With the exception of the Panama Canal, the pilot is only an advisor, as the captain remains in legal command of the vessel.
Pilotage is one of the oldest, least-known professions; it is as old as sea travel itself. The economic and environmental risk from today's large cargo ships makes the role of the pilot essential.
The work functions of the pilot go back to Ancient Greece and Roman times, when locally experienced harbour captains, mainly local fishermen, were employed by incoming ships' captains to bring their trading vessels into port safely. Eventually, in light of the need to regulate the act of pilotage and to ensure pilots had adequate insurance, the harbours themselves licensed pilots. Prior to the establishment of harbour boards to regulate, pilots known as "hobblers" would compete with one another. The first to reach in incoming ship would guide it to the docks; and receive payment.
Although licensed by the harbour to operate within their jurisdiction, pilots were generally self-employed, meaning that they had to have quick transport to get from the port to the incoming ships. As pilots were often still dual-employed, they used their own fishing boats to reach the incoming vessels. But fishing boats were heavy working boats, and filled with fishing equipment, hence a new type of boat was required.
The photograph shows a modern Pilot Boat leaving our ship after the Pilot has boarded to assist with our passage into the port of Malaga.
Malaga, Costa Del Sol, Spain