Maritime pilots

Education, Training, and progression in authorised class of vessel of Dutch Pilots

This is a generic overview of the education and training of the Dutch pilots. Every region has its own specialist training tailored to the needs of the port. 


A candidate possess a CoC Master all Ships or Chief Mate all Ships. In the Dutch system, the holder of a CoC Chief Mate all Ships has completed all education, training and examinations necessary to become a master, but only lacks a limited amount of sea time. The Nautical Education will be at the level of a BSc.

The selection consists of four parts:

  1. intake
  2. full day psychological assessment
  3. test with training vessel focussing on insight and aptitude
  4. interview

Initial Education

The initial education consists of four phases. 

Phase 0
Phase 0 is the National part of 10 weeks, focussing on the issues each pilot needs to know, irrespective of the region, such as National and International laws, rules and regulations, communication procedures, theoretical and practical manoeuvring (simulator and training vessel), buoyage systems, tides, Maritime Resource Management etc. This phase concludes with theoretical and practical examinations. After passing, the regional phases of in total 11 – 12 months start. 

Phase 1
Phase 1 concentrates on familiarisation in the region: observing experienced pilots, getting used to communication with VTS, tugs, boatmen and other parties. Additionally there are theoretical modules concerning these subjects and topography and theoretical shiphandling in the region. This phase ends with a diagnostic test of 8 – 10 trips, leading to a report concerning the trainee.

Phase 2
In phase 2 the trainee will get the possibility to do navigation and shiphandling under the guidance of experienced pilots, subject to permission of the captain and depending on the type of vessel, the circumstances (weather, traffic) and the experience of the mentoring pilot. There is a diagnostic period of 8 – 10 trips, leading to a report. The trainee will start with a research and development project. The theoretical training continues. This phase ends with practical examinations consisting of 8 trips, and theoretical examinations of all aspects of phase 1 and 2 plus MRM. 

Phase 3
After passing, phase 3 starts. The trainee will in principle act similar as a pilot on all the trips, including working with tugs, while the pilot is observing and coaching. There is 1 diagnostic period. The trainee will continue his research and development project. At the end of phase 3 there is a practical examination, consisting of 8 trips and a theoretical examination consisting of the evaluation of the research and development project. 

After passing, the trainee will have done some 200 + voyages and will start to prepare for the final examinations consisting of a practical part of 10 trips, and a theoretical part covering all regional aspects. 

During the education there are theory sessions and internships at the local VTS station and the tug company/on board tugs. Simulators and a training vessel are utilized. Attention is given to the strengths and weaknesses of the PPU which gets information via the pilot plug. Personal Safety Training is provided, focussed on the needs of pilots (falling of the pilot ladder, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training).

The Initial Education of Dutch pilots has been accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). Successful candidates will be granted the degree of Master Maritime  Pilotage (MMP, University of Applied Science)

Gaining experience and professional training

Once the trainee has become a pilot there is a strict step by step system of being authorised to pilot larger vessels as experience is gained. This system is tailored to each port/port area depending on the characteristic of the port and the traffic. Typically it will take 7 – 8 years to be authorised to pilot all sizes of vessels and some additional time to pilot all drafts. During these years the pilot will receive additional theoretical and simulator training courses on appropriate moments taking into account the sizes and types of vessel for which the pilot will be authorised. Part of these trainings are refresher MRM runs and training on the specialised high precision navigational equipment (cm accuracy) necessary for special voyages (e.g. Deep Draft).

There is continual training such as the voluntary yearly simulator training and the yearly repeater training for deep draft pilots.

Several times a year pilot meet to discuss all operational issues in the port, including incident reports. A climate is set which encourages informal exchange of experiences.

Additional training

For a number of ports, during bad weather or other special circumstances the pilot may board smaller ships when the vessel has reached a more sheltered position. The vessel will get advice from a pilot based ashore, who uses a dedicated radar position at the VTS centre, starting from the formal pilot boarding position until the place the pilot actually boards, These so called Shore Based Pilots get special training on simulators and at the work floor, with examinations overseen by the VTS authority. SBP pilots get 3-yearly repeater courses which are concluded with examinations.

In most ports 24/7 a Chief Pilot is stationed at the VTS centre. This pilot oversees the pilotage operations and can discuss operational matters with the VTS.  A specialist training is provided for this function.

The personal safety training including HUET is repeated every 3 year.

Keeping education and training up to standard

There are systems in place to evaluate all education and training, and to share knowledge and experience between the instructors and training coordinators within a region and nationwide. 

Instructors are selected, and trained to the required knowledge and skills, both nautical-technical and instructional. They are provided with continuing input in the form of courses and conferences to stay up to date and to maintain a fresh perspective.  Systems are in place to provide the information of accident and incident reports to the trainers so that these reports will be considered in the education and training. 

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