State Harbor Pilots must successfully complete an intense testing and training program of two to three years overseen by the State Board of Pilot Commissioners. Before a candidate is selected to begin the Deputy Pilot training program, he or she is first vetted by the State and must meet State mandated shipboard experience requirements. The selected candidate must score one of the top scores of a comprehensive Deputy Pilot exam administered by the State which includes drawing the Port nautical charts from memory. During the two to three year training program, Deputy Pilots complete hundreds of round-trip transits of the Port for which they are training. In order to complete the training program and obtain a State Pilot license, the Deputy Pilot must pass the State Pilot exam at the end of the program. Under Federal law, the requirements to obtain a Federal Pilot license or endorsement consist of only needing to observe twelve to twenty round-trips of the Port, depending on the specific Port, and pass one test. There are no requirements of training of any kind to obtain a Federal Pilot license.
There simply is no comparison or equivalency between the two sets of licensing requirements. The question that pilotage service consumers and the general public should consider is, which of these licensing requirements would you prefer that Pilots adhere to before serving your company’s vessels or for piloting vessels calling at your local Port. In making risk management assessments regarding pilotage service, companies and government agencies must evaluate whether risk is best managed with the minimum qualification, least expensive alternative or with an alternative featuring comprehensive testing, training, and experience requirements. These decisions are extremely important for all vessels using the water, harbor and port resources of the State of Florida and especially vessels carrying hazardous cargos, petroleum products, or in the case of the U.S. Navy, vessels which are nuclear-powered.