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Welcome to the Maryland Pilot’s Home Page. Founded in 1852, The Association of Maryland Pilots is the oldest state codified organization of Pilots in the nation. The Maryland Pilots have always been known for accomplishing "first's. They continue to be a progressive leader in the world of piloting by being strong advocates of technology, training, and accountability.

This web site contains information about Maryland Pilots including their history, governance, training, and role in protecting the Chesapeake Bay while serving Maryland’s economy. We invite you to learn more about who we are, what we do and how we serve you. Welcome Aboard!

A Brief History of Pilots in Maryland

The history of Maryland Pilots precedes even the Association's founding date by more than 147 years. A reference to Bay Pilots can be found in Maryland records dating back to 1640, and Pilotage laws were established during the first session of Maryland's legislature in 1787. In 1881, the Maryland Pilots introduced the first steamer in the world, exclusively built for piloting. Before the Association of Maryland Pilots was founded, small schooners offered piloting services to inbound ships. The first schooner to hail an inbound ship would win the right to board a Pilot and sail the ship safely to one of Maryland’s historic ports such as St. Mary’s City, Crisfield, Oxford, St. Michael’s, Cambridge, Solomon’s Island, Annapolis, Havre de Grace, Rock Hall, Chestertown, and Baltimore.

The use of small pilot schooners in the late 1700's led to the development of the Baltimore Clippers, the fastest vessels of their day. Maryland’s goodwill ambassador, the Pride of Baltimore II, is a replica of this class of vessel. During the war of 1812, the American naval war effort was supported by the extensive use of Baltimore Clippers that were commissioned as “privateers”. It has been recorded that these “privateers” captured or sank over 1700 British merchant vessels during the War.

Ship Handling Specialists

Each ship engaged in foreign trade coming to Maryland ports is required to take on a local ship handling specialist, known as the Pilot, to navigate the vessel safely into port. Both Bay and Docking Pilots are regulated by the State of Maryland under the Department of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation.

Docking Pilots are specialized pilots uniquely trained in maneuvering commercial vessels in close quarters during docking, undocking and shiftings with tugboat assistance within Maryland waters. Bay Pilots are in command at all other times, ensuring that a State-licensed pilot is always in charge of all vessel movements in Maryland waters from port to port. 

Pilot Boat 
Maryland Pilot Boat at Lynnhaven Virginia
The State Board of Pilots and the State Board of Docking Pilots oversee the selection, training, licensing, and regulation of all State Pilots. The rates and charges for the service the Pilots provide are established by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Maryland’s Bay and Docking Pilots are, like firemen, on call around the clock every day of the year no matter what the weather conditions may be.

The Chesapeake Bay is Unique

The Chesapeake Bay is the longest pilotage route on the United State's East Coast, with nearly 200 miles of Bay waters. Ships longer than 3 football fields and nearly 48‘ deep routinely transit the narrow ship channels leading to Baltimore that are only 50' in depth. More than 96% of all ships coming to Maryland are manned by foreign officers and crews, many from third world countries and 95% of all U.S. international cargo is carried by ships. Pilots are on the “front lines” protecting the environmental and ecological balance of the Chesapeake Bay by ensuring the safe passage of these large ships that carry huge quantities of oil and other hazardous liquids. If the EXXON VALDEZ had employed a pilot, the worst oil spill in our nation’s history would probably not have happened. The size of that spill would have polluted the entire Chesapeake Bay, spreading south along the eastern seaboard as far as South Carolina.

The Port of Baltimore

The Port of Baltimore nationally ranks 15th in total tonnage, and first in Roll-on/Roll-off cargo, and third in Automobiles. More than 125,000 jobs in Maryland are related to the maritime industry. One ship can carry nearly 7,000 cars, 10,000 truck sized containers, 3500 passengers & crew, or 1000 railcar loads of coal, sometimes valued at nearly $500 million. The least expensive overland route to the massive Midwest market starts at the Port of Baltimore.

Pilot Selection

Bay and Docking Pilots are selected in a fair and competitive process; open to anyone…the State Boards of Pilots are required by statute to select the best qualified applicant. Maryland Pilots have been instrumental in creating minority opportunities by being one of the first national pilot associations to welcome African-American and female members.
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