Deputy Pilot Positions
Deputy Pilot openings in all Florida Ports are published at this link: Harbor Pilots-MyFloridaLicense and are filled through the Florida Board of Pilot Commissioners application and examination process. The information regarding how to apply, fees required, merchant marine deck officer qualifications/experience required, and exam content information is available on the web site. Openings for Deputy Pilots are usually published by September of each year and the application deadline is typically December 1. The examination is administered the following March and the Deputy Pilot is usually appointed to the open position from the test results the following August. Occasionally there are tests held in different months if a port needs to fill an unexpected vacancy. All interested candidates should visit the BOPC web site frequently to monitor when the Deputy Pilot openings, application deadlines and test dates are posted. A comprehensive overview of the test and testing process can be found by looking at an example of the deputy pilot examination booklet from the previous testing year. The 2021 booklet can be found at this link: 2021 Deputy Pilot Booklet Any interested candidate who has not previously taken the exam should read this cover to cover and pay close attention to the list of reference materials needed to study.
The Canaveral Pilot training program is a 2.75 to 3 year program. Upon completion of the training program, the deputy pilot takes a state pilot exam to obtain the state pilot license. The first year of the training program is intensive and the trainee can expect very little time off. The first year is completed in a probationary status and at the end of the year the Association votes on whether or not to recommend the candidate to receive a permanent deputy pilot certificate. Interested mariners should read through the additional information provided on this page and the information at the BOPC web site.
The Canaveral Pilots Association currently consists of six pilots and two deputy pilots and is organized as an association of independent contractors. Vessels handled at Port Canaveral include cruise ships, tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, general cargo vessels, refrigerated cargo vessels, tug/barges, special mission government vessels and Navy vessels. The port is the second busiest cruise ship port in the world. The deepest draft handled at the port is 40′ 00″. Any vessels drawing over 38′ are tide restricted and are scheduled to enter port on a rising tide. During the training program, deputy pilots will initially ride with senior pilots to observe the handling of all of the different types of vessels. As the deputy progresses through the training program, he or she will next handle vessels under the supervision of the senior pilots, and eventually begin handling vessels on his or her own according to draft and LOA restrictions specific to the training level. By the time a deputy pilot reaches Level 8, which is the last three to six months of the training program, the deputy will be handling almost all of the vessels calling at the port with the exception of the deepest draft ships.
Deputy Pilot Exam FAQ’s
The state deputy pilot exam is a comprehensive seven part exam which includes drawing the port navigational charts from memory. Most successful candidates take the test from two to four times before achieving the highest score.
The seven parts of the exam consist of true/false and multiple choice sections covering International Rules of the Road, Inland Rules of the Road, Shiphandling and Seamanship, Aids to Navigation, Federal and State Rules and Regulations, and Local Knowledge. The chart plot section consists of a blank chart which has only the outline of land features and the latitude and longtitude lines. The candidate must draw from memory the entire navigational channel, all aids to navigation, and other features as designated by the BOPC. Consult the BOPC web site for more information on what is covered on the exam and a list of resources to study from.
Following the initial administration of the exam, the BOPC allows candidates to review the exam. During this process candidates may appeal any questions marked wrong that the candidate feels should have been marked correct. Candidates are strongly encouraged to go through the review process for each exam taken, to take advantage of the opportunity to learn which questions they got wrong and to attempt to receive credit if applicable.
After the exam results are thoroughly reviewed, the Board identifies the five highest-scoring candidates. Once the five individuals are established, the Secretary of the Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) will appoint one individual among the five candidates as the deputy harbor pilot. Traditionally, the candidate with the highest overall exam score is appointed, however, the Secretary may take in to consideration minority status, in making the appointment decision. The appointed candidate is then directed to contact the pilots at the port to receive instructions on when to report for training. The BOPC oversees and approves port-specific training programs, monitors the deputy’s progress, and when fully qualified and trained, they re-examine the deputy harbor pilot. Once this process is completed, the candidate receives a state pilot license.
It is important to note that this profession requires a commitment from an individual who has a strong and dedicated work ethic and is willing to go through the necessary training and educational procedures to become a licensed harbor pilot. Recent successful candidates have indicated that they studied at least 1,000 hours to prepare for the exam, and few candidates are appointed on their first attempt – most sit for the exam more than once.
According to Florida statute 310, applicants for deputy pilot must:
- Be a U.S. citizen, 21 years old
- Have a high school diploma
- Be physically and mentally fit
- Drug and alcohol dependency free
- Hold a minimum 2nd Mates Unlimited or a Master Tow Vessels 1,600 ton license, or service as a USCG licensed First Class Pilot in U.S. ports or the Great Lakes, or service on certain specific types of military vessels; and
- Have at least two years of sea time serving on the above license within a five year period immediately preceding the exam
- Consult the BOPC web site and Florida Statute 310 for the complete detailed list of requirements