Our Mission

Puget Sound Pilots’ mission is to ensure against the loss of lives, loss of or damage to property and vessels, and to protect the marine environment by maintaining efficient and competent pilotage service on our State’s inland waters within the Puget Sound Pilotage District. PSP members are highly skilled, specially trained vessel captains who board oil tankers, cargo vessels and cruise ships to guide them safely through Puget Sound waters. Our pilots are independent professionals who work on behalf of the citizens of Washington State.

What We Do

Circa 100 AD Roman law requires that a captain take a pilot or be responsible for any damages his ship might cause.

1935 Puget Sound Pilots established.

2018 Puget Sound Pilots celebrates 150 years of Washington’s pilotage act.


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Safety News

Pilot Transfer Arrangement Safety Newsletters

PTA Safety Newsletter- June 2023


Underwater noise from vessel traffic is one of the key threats to Puget Sound’s endangered orca population. It interferes with the killer whales’ ability to find increasingly scarce salmon. A new initiative is underway to alert ship operators when whales are near so they can slow down.

Pilot News

Seattle Times Article on PSP Pilot Boat Captains

Licensed Puget Sound pilots are required on all foreign-flag commercial vessels sailing those waters: freighters, tankers, cruise ships, container ships. Once a ship enters the Strait, that “tiny red dot” brings to the vessel a pilot to navigate the ship to port. Pilots have extensive knowledge the depths and currents along the Sound’s 2,000-plus miles of shoreline; they’re familiar with weather patterns and tidal action at the various harbors, piers, and docks.

Each year, Puget Sound pilots facilitate the shipment of over $80 billion in cargo.

A crucial cog in this massive machine is the operator of the pilot boat, diligently placing the pilots where they need to be. I recently shadowed Richard Welch, a pilot boat operator with more than 40 years of maritime experience, who showed me what a working day looks like for these truly unsung heroes.