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In France, piloting is a public service managed by pilots.

In 2019, around 101,000 piloting operations were carried out.

T‘he whole of the French piloting organization represents 32 piloting stations – 23 in Metropolitan France and 5 in the French overseas departments, 3 in the overseas countries and local authorities and a cooperative of offshore pilots – with a total of 335 pilots, 257 flight crew, 12 flying staff and 108 administrative staff and 14 auxiliaries. That is to say in all 741 people. Apart from the land equipment for piloting stations – offices, computers, radars, cars and maintenance installations – the nautical equipment is made up of a pilot boat, 101 fast pilot boats (of a minimum length of 12 meters), three helicopters and a workshop pontoon.

Maritime piloting is organized by articles L 5341-1 et seq. Of the transport code (ordinance n ° 2010-1307 of October 28, 2010) and by the decree of May 19, 1969, last amended in 2009.

The operation of piloting stations is under the supervision of the Minister of Transport. After the decentralization of the Administration, operated in France in 1982, the authority of the Minister of Transport over pilot stations was transferred to the Prefect of each region who supervises the piloting issues of the region with the help of the control exercised. by the Regional Director of Maritime Affairs.

While the Minister of Transport is responsible for piloting and in particular for the general regulations applicable to all piloting stations, the Regional Prefect must set the local regulations specific to each station in accordance with the general regulations. Despite the diversity of the conditions of piloting services in each station, there is a real unity in the organization of piloting.

“Pilotage consists in the assistance given to the Captain by personnel commissioned by the State for the conduct of ships entering and leaving ports, ports, roadsteads, and maritime waters of rivers and canals”

Here is the definition of piloting as it appears in article 1 of the law of 1928. Behind the legal aspect and its consequences on the civil liability of pilots, this definition shows the State’s concern to ensure safety. navigation under its control.

The pilot’s commission is granted to him for a given piloting station and the law provides for penal sanctions for any person who undertakes the piloting of a ship without having a regular pilot’s commission of the station. Consequently, the exercise of pilotage is a de facto monopoly of mandated pilots belonging to a pilotage station. This pilotage monopoly complements the basic principle of the organization of pilotage based on compulsory pilotage.

There are no penal sanctions for a Captain who refuses the assistance of a pilot. In fact, this clause of the law has no effect, because on the one hand the port authorities do not issue the acquittal of rights to ships without a pilot being on board, in accordance with the rules of navigation port and, on the other hand, pilotage fees must be paid when the pilot can prove that he has come to the front of a ship to serve him. Pilotage rules apply only to compulsory pilotage.

Experienced sailors can pilot ships in small ports, where compulsory pilotage is not organized. In this case, these people are not seen as pilots, but simply as practical sailors with good local experience.

French Federation of Maritime Pilots © Ewan Lebourdai