How can you become a ship pilot?


Always a hand's breadth of water under the keel

Pilots are nautical experts who are knowledgeable about the area and advise captains on board seagoing vessels when calling at coasts and ports. The knowledge and experience of the pilots cannot be replaced by GPS and electronic nautical charts - they have local knowledge and they know the current conditions as well as the depths and widths of the entire fairway in their area. This enables them to make the right decisions to get a ship safely to its port of destination. The Elbe pilots' area begins south of Heligoland and extends for around 170 kilometers to the Bubendey bank. There the port pilots take over. For the Elbe and the Port of Hamburg there is a pilot acceptance requirement for all ships that are longer than 90 or wider than 13 meters and for all tankers. Fishermen were already offering navigational support on the Elbe in the 14th century. The port pilots have been working in the service of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg since 1858. In 1981 they founded a pilot brotherhood and have been organizing their work as freelancers since then is becoming increasingly important in the port.


    • Pilot transfer boat
    • Pilot station ELBE PILOT

The pilot station ship ELBE PILOT

The pilot station ship is stationed at the mouth of the Elbe in the German Bight. The Elbe pilots start a large part of their missions from here. There is space on board the ship for up to 34 crew members, who work in two-week shifts, and for around 50 pilots. If a pilot is needed on an incoming ocean-going vessel, a pilot transfer boat takes him from the station to the place of use. There the transfer boat docks on the leeward side (away from the wind) of the ocean-going vessel so that the pilot can climb on board via the pilot ladder or through a hatch in the ship's side. All of this happens while driving. The sea pilot advises the captain on navigating the ship to the next pilot station off Brunsbüttel. A pilot change takes place there and an Elbe pilot takes over the nautical advice of the master on the bridge. The last pilot change takes place at the entrance to the Hamburg port area at the level of the Seemannshöft pilot station, opposite Teufelsbrück. Here the port pilots, who specialize in the particularities of the port basin, take over until the ship is safely on the quay wall for loading and unloading.


The pilot training

The pilot training program offers good development opportunities in an international environment. And offspring is in demand! If you want to become a pilot, you have an exciting career path ahead of you: The prerequisite for training as a pilot is a patent for “captains on long voyages without restrictions”. This can be acquired by career or lateral entrants at a seafaring college or university of applied sciences. In addition, the offspring must have worked in a responsible position on board a seagoing vessel for two years. Then the eight-month training can begin in the respective area of ​​your choice, which ends with an examination at the GDWS. After 5 years of practical experience on various ship sizes, the pilot candidates are finally granted permission to pilot with no ship size limit.

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