When a Pilot boards a vessel, they must assess the:

  • Weather
  • Traffic density
  • Fitness of crew members
  • Competence of officers
  • Activities on ship
  • Status of instrumentation
  • Ship handling characteristics
  • Configuration of the bridge
  • Language barriers
Ship Captains from other regions don’t know the Calcasieu Ship Channel as the Lake Charles Pilots do. Language barriers can also cause a problem. Some captains speak very limited basic maritime language. National security is imperative when handling these large ships. Weather (Fog, blinding rain storms, wind gusts, and current) can highten risk in the ship channel. Lack of knowledge of traffic flow and lack of experience in close quarters navigation by foriegn Captains is another reason why the Lake Charles Pilots are so important.
Legislation made a Pilot mandatory on every ship entering the Calcasieu Ship Channel to help protect the SWLA environment and economy associated with the Calcasieu Ship Channel, along with the health and public safety of its citizens.
The Lake Charles Pilots are specifically trained for safely navigating large vessels through the Calcasieu Ship Channel. The ship's captain does retain complete authority on the ship. The pilot's role on a ship is that of adviser, but his commands are typically given the same weight as those of the master. The pilot usually stands at the front of the glass-enclosed wheel house, where he has a nearly 180-degree view of the ship's surroundings from the height of a 13-story building. From that position, he calls steering and engine commands, telling the quartermaster whether to steer left (port) or right (starboard).