What is pilotage?

As defined in the Pilotage Act, pilotage refers to activities related to the navigation of vessels in which the pilot acts as an advisor to the master of the vessel and as an expert on the local waters and their navigation. The purpose of pilotage is to enhance the safety of vessel traffic and prevent environmental damage generated by vessel traffic.

The pilot is a vital local advisor to the shipmaster who provides navigational assistance to vessels sailing along the fairways and increasingly ensures the safe manoeuvring of ships to quays in destination ports.

Pilotage has a long-standing history. In Finland, vessels have been piloted officially for more than 320 years. The field is alive and well and changing rapidly along with the trend of digitalisation.

When must a vessel use a pilot?

In accordance with Finland’s Pilotage Act and the Government Decree on Pilotage, ships arriving to and departing from Finnish ports must utilise the services of a pilot if the vessel’s cargo is considered dangerous or hazardous, or if such services are required due to the size of the vessel itself.

Vessels are exempted from the obligation to use a pilot if the shipmaster has a valid pilot’s licence or if the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has granted the vessel the right to sail without a pilot. Within the vessel traffic in Finnish waters, the percentage of vessels utilising pilotage services is about 35 per cent.

How are pilotage services organised in Finland?

The added safety that pilotage provides within Finland’s narrow archipelago fairways is pivotal in terms of preventing accidents. In Finland, these essential services are carried out by the state-owned special assignment company Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd. Finnpilot’s duty is to provide pilotage services in accordance with Finland’s Pilotage Act as well as to assume responsibility for other tasks and obligations related to pilotage as prescribed by the Pilotage Act within the Finnish waterways specified in the Act.

This website provides an opportunity to learn more about pilotage, its aims and impacts, the professions of the pilots and pilot boat operators and the extensive history of pilotage.