PILOTS AND PILOTING ON TAMPA BAY VI

Each Tampa Bay Pilot, insofar as the performance of his duties as a pilot is concerned, is a free-agent and is answerable only to the Board of Pilot Commissioners and/or the US Coast Guard. He does, however, on all other matters work within the framework of certain rules and regulations, which govern our association. He is an equal shareholder and thus exercises an equal voice on all matters relating to the group. Perhaps no more classic example of the democratic process at work exists today than that exemplified by our operation. All decisions, except for those few wherein the signature of all members are required, are made on the basis of a majority vote.  Two managers, acting in a co-equal capacity, carry out the wishes of the majority on matters involving the management of the association. Two other pilots act as managers of the boats and station equipment. Our physical assets consist of four boats, with a replacement value of about $75,000 each, a pilot station on Egmont Key with some eighteen houses, a 300 foot pier, lookout tower, fuel storage tanks, emergency generators and radio communications equipment. Our office, in one of the downtown bank buildings, in addition to its function as our business headquarters, serves as the nerve-center of our operation and has radio equipment, which provides communication with our station, boats and other ships.

The pilotage route from sea to Tampa is forty nautical miles — almost twice as long as Jacksonville, the next longest route in Florida. The shortest route -­Port Everglades — is less than two miles. Reduced to its simplest terms the duties of a Tampa Bay pilot are to board a vessel at Egmont sea buoy, nine miles offshore and provide the local knowledge, skill and ship-handling ability necessary to safely conduct or “conn” the vessel over the bar, through the channels, and in most cases to dock the vessel with or without tugs as indicated. To pilot the vessel out of port the same procedure is followed but in reverse order. The pilot is nearly always the first personal contact a foreign shipmaster makes as he enters the United States. We therefore regard ourselves additionally as “ambassadors of good will”. Whether our manner always reflects that attitude may, of course, be open to question by those with whom we do business to the uninformed who might accompany a pilot on an assignment it might appear that the pilot goes aboard a vessel and “takes command” so to speak. Nothing could be further from the truth; the master of the vessel is always in command and has the final word on all matters pertaining to his vessel, including piloting. Indeed, the master may relieve the pilot and take over the direction of his vessel any time he chooses. This is rarely done, but is not without precedent. As a matter of practice and custom, however, the pilot boards the vessel and “assumes direction” of the piloting operation. This includes giving advice and information to the master and all necessary orders and directions to the deck officer and helmsman relative to engine maneuvers, speed, courses, wheel or steering orders, placement of tugs and the necessary orders to each of these in docking or undocking.

Only rarely does the pilot actually steer or operate the engine order telegraph. In short, the pilot is merely an adviser who gives the necessary information and orders to safely navigate the ship into and out of greater Tampa harbor.  In light of certain recent experiences our effectiveness in this regard might also be debated by some.  The operation of providing pilotage service for Tampa and its many facilities goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thus, our office is never closed and the pilots never sleep, “figuratively speaking” the only exception to this is during a hurricane or severe northwesters when it is considered unsafe to attempt to board or disembark in the Gulf.

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