Each member of the Puget Sound Pilots is a skilled, veteran mariner with decades of experience navigating the waters of Puget Sound. In fact, to become a pilot an applicant must have at least two to four years of experience as the captain of an ocean-going vessel, tug boat, passenger ferry, or a military vessel.

If they have the required experience, they can sit for a written examination offered by the Washington State Board of Pilotage Commissioners. If they pass that exam, they then go into a marine simulator where they are evaluated by pilots and other experts as to their judgment and ship handling ability. . If they pass that evaluation, they may then be invited into the training program.

The Puget Sound Pilots training programs lasts between one and three years.

In addition, before becoming licensed, a pilot must hold an unrestricted federal pilotage endorsement certifying familiarity with local waters. Earning this endorsement requires many months of bridge experience on local waterways. In addition, the endorsement requires that pilots be able to draw navigational charts of local waterways from memory, including written descriptions of land masses and hazards. Typically, pilot applicants obtain this local knowledge and federal pilot’s license during the training program.

If they pass the training program (and not all applicants do), they receive an initial pilot’s license which is limited as to the types and sizes of ships that the new pilot can handle. These license restrictions last for the first five years that the pilot is licensed. After five full years of piloting, the pilot is finally able to handle the largest tankers, cruise ships and container ships that call on our ports.

Our pilots are members of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, the International Marine Division of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO.