Florida Harbor Pilots' Facts
The Florida Harbor Pilots Association (FHPA) is a voluntary organization comprised of nearly 100 highly-skilled and highly-trained harbor pilots that service each of Florida’s 14 deepwater ports.
FHPA’s state-regulated and licensed harbor pilots have been taking navigational control of foreign flagged cargo and cruise ships and directing their movement into and out of Florida’s ports for decades.
Harbor pilots possess intimate local knowledge of their ports and are specially trained in shiphandling in narrow channels. Harbor pilots assist local, state and federal authorities with seaport development, new ship operations and port security.
Harbor pilots are the watchdogs for the numerous foreign flagged cargo and cruise ships coming in and out of our state’s ports, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Without harbor pilots, the lives and safety of the people of Florida and the protection of the state’s ports and coastal environment would be at risk.
The vast majority of harbor pilots currently licensed by the State of Florida have graduated from a four-year federal or state maritime academy, which are equivalent to the nation’s military academies, demanding a high level of scholastic performance in a military environment. A graduate of one of these maritime academies earns a bachelor’s degree and a U.S. Coast Guard license as a deck officer-third mate unlimited. The typical state pilot then leaves his or her family and goes to sea, serving on ocean-going vessels for 10-12 years, working their way up through increasing levels of responsibility, until the vast majority advance their license to an unlimited master and also sail in command of oceangoing ships.
All of FHPA’s harbor pilots are independent contractors, belonging to one of the 11 individual member associations within our state’s pilotage region and are responsible for maintaining and operating one or more offices and pilots stations, pilot boats, dispatch systems, electronic equipment and administrative services.
Pilot fees are set by the Pilotage Rate Review Committee, whose members sit on the full Board of Pilotage Commissioners. All members are appointed by the Governor.
The most dangerous time for harbor pilots is transferring to or from the pilot boat on a rope ladder. In a rash of deaths between January 2006 and February 2007, four U.S. pilots and a pilot boat operator were killed during transfers.