As a professional pilot, cutter or pilot broker

Pilot

“As a pilot, I serve as the local adviser to shipmasters to ensure the safe passage of their ships. My work is diverse and pragmatic in nature, and I really enjoy my job.”

Pilots guide vessels from the sea into port as well as from the port out to sea. They also handle vessel transfers from one quay to another within the port. Pilots work on the bridge alongside the shipmaster and other crew members. At Finnpilot, pilots serve under the authority of a particular pilot station.

In order to be qualified for this work, a pilot must have

  • master mariner competence,
  • sufficient maritime experience and
  • specialised training.

Duties

Pilots guide the vessels

  • through the inner and outer archipelago,
  • inside the harbour areas and
  • within the Saimaa waterways.

The Pilot Order Centre dispatches the available pilot to the vessel in question. The pilot travels to the location by car and pilot boat and sometimes, in the winter, by tug, hydrocopter or even an icebreaker.

According to legislation, a pilot acts as an adviser to shipmasters, but in practice, the pilot often takes the lead when steering the vessel. The work of the pilot requires a great deal of responsibility and accuracy, as errors can result in significant damage to the vessel or environment.

To assist with the accuracy of the job, the pilot utilises different automated monitoring and operational systems such as

  • guidance and navigation devices,
  • engine control systems,
  • compasses,
  • radars and
  • electronic positioning devices.

Tugboats are often used, particularly to assist large vessels when mooring to or detaching from the quay. The pilot is forced to oversee this demanding operation to ensure that the vessel is not damaged in any way.

Each pilot station has a designated District Chief Pilot who acts as the administrative supervisor for the station. In addition to the pilots, each pilot station is also manned by pilot boat operators that transport the pilots to and from their pilotage assignments. Pilots work for week-long shifts followed by a similar duration of time off.

Work requirements

  • Pilots must be able to manoeuvre vessels within narrow fairways in often challenging conditions.
  • The work requires a high degree of responsibility, since it involves the safety of an expensive ship and its cargo as well as passengers, crew and other seafarers.
  • The work of pilots calls for constant vigilance, alertness and caution. Pilots often need to make independent and fast decisions about the movements of a vessel.
  • The different seasons bring about additional challenges for the pilots. During the summer, there is light for nearly 24 hours of the day, whereas there are only a few hours of light in the winter. The autumn season brings storms and the winter creates icy conditions. Thick fog is often a problem in the spring as the ice begins to melt and the large ice fields start to shift about.
  • On the bridge, the working language is most often English. In terms of Finnish navigation, the Swedish language is also quite prominent. Competence in other languages can also be useful.
  • It is important for pilots to have social skills that enable them to get along with different types of people.
  • A good physical condition is ensured through examinations and related physical testing carried out by a recognised medical practitioner.

Pilot boat operator

“My tasks include the maintenance of our equipment and facilities and the transporting of pilots by land and sea.”

In practice, the work of a pilot boat operator involves the transportation of pilots, by pilot boat, between the piloted vessels and pilot stations. Pilots are always accompanied by two pilot boat operators; one who serves as the captain of the pilot boat and the other who is positioned on deck to ensure that the pilot is able to safely embark and disembark vessels.

Pilot coordinator

“The work of a pilot coordinator calls for good problem-solving skills and an aptitude for languages. Good communication skills are also a major plus.”

The Pilot Order Centre serves external and internal pilotage customers, and the quality of its operations has a significant impact on the success of the entire pilotage process. The duty of the Pilot Order Centre is to process pilot orders submitted by ships and shipbrokers. The work is carried out in three shifts every day. The pilot coordinator’s work requires a customer-oriented approach, the ability to cope well under pressure and good organisational skills. It also calls for good language skills and the capacity to learn and utilise the necessary IT tools used in the work.