Charleston Harbor serves as the centerpiece of the Lowcountry’s beauty, and an economic engine for the State of South Carolina. Our pilots handle vessels calling on 19 ports and facilities. Home to the as the eighth largest container trade in the country, the State Ports Authority terminals generate more than 250,000 jobs and $45 billion in economic activity each year.
Dating back as far as the Bible, marine pilotage is one of the world’s oldest trades. Often referred to as “bar pilots,” these local experts use their detailed knowledge of waterways to safely navigate a visiting vessel over the sandbar offshore and to the dock. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, pilots in Charleston Harbor – much like those in the rest of the country and the world – were self-employed and competed against one another.
As a full service pilot organization, Charleston Branch Pilots provide pilotage services to vessels engaged in domestic and foreign trade. All members are both state and federally licensed for unlimited tonnage throughout the Port of Charleston.
The Charleston Branch Harbor Pilots’ Association is dedicated to maintaining safety and preserving the environment. Safety Pilots must navigate vessels in a myriad of conditions: strong winds, precipitation, thunderstorms, fog, shoaling and more.
Pilots can be ordered directly by the vessel or by its designated agent. Three hours advanced notice is required. Pilots can be ordered preliminarily by VHF radio or by telephone, but the final order must be in writing, and submitted via fax or email.
Harbor pilots serve the State of South Carolina to prevent marine incidents that would result in harm to the environment, the public, and mariners; and to maintain a smooth and efficient flow of maritime commerce. Further, The Charleston Navigation Company, owned by the Pilots, provides technical and administrative services such as boat operations and radio […]
As a full service pilot organization, Charleston Branch Pilots provide pilotage services to vessels engaged in domestic and foreign trade. All members are both state and federally licensed for unlimited tonnage throughout the Port of Charleston. State law requires a pilot on all foreign registered vessels, and U.S.-registered vessels engaged in international trade and with […]
Located at the mouth of the harbor, the pilot office is fully equipped for around-the-clock vessel operations. State law requires at least three hours notice but 12-24 hours notice is typical. A dispatcher is available 24 hours a day to receive orders and arrange pilotage for vessels arriving and leaving the port. Outfitted with a […]
This time lapse was filmed at sunset aboard the Charleston pilot boat Ft. Sumter in December 2013. It compresses an hour and 50 minutes of still photos shot during a trip offshore to retrieve two pilots disembarking ships near boarding station Bravo. Thanks to boat operator David Ernst for the great footage!
From the American Journal of Transportation, Sept. 9-22, 2013
By Paul Scott Abbott
For Capt. Whit S. Smith III, Charleston Harbor has been the favored “playground” since growing up sailing boats on its waters in the 1950s, and, with his 70th birthday approaching in February, he has no plans to stop having fun in his roles as president of the Charleston Branch Pilots’ Association and as a board member of the South Carolina State Ports Authority.