Bar Pilots Training Requirements


For Piloting, San Francisco Bay is considered one of the most complex harbors in the United States.  The Board of Pilot Commissioners administers a comprehensive Bar Pilot Training Program geared to the exceptional demands of the San Francisco& Monterey Bays having sole jurisdiction over the stringent program requirements.

The Board determines the number of Bar Pilots who can be licensed at any one time selecting pilot trainees through a competitive process and assigning the training/oversight to its Pilot Evaluation Committee.  The Board swings one of the widest nets in the industry canvassing the entire country for candidates.  At a minimum, applicants for the training program must have two years of command time (on tug or ships) and that experience must be attained within the previous five years.  Once an application is accepted the candidate faces a rigorous testing process that includes both written and simulator tests in order to gain selection onto the small list for entry into the State training program.

The process of simulator exam evaluation is supervised by a very seasoned team; including out-of- state pilots, shipmasters and members of the Pilot Evaluation Committee. Evaluators are provided with a detailed list of likely responses to specific situations and grading criteria to establish which responses are considered highly effective, adequate or inadequate during each simulator run taken by the candidates..

After successfully finishing the application process, the list of candidates are called as needed to begin working under the guidance of the Pilot Evaluation Committee for up to three years of extensive, monitored training typically handling over 300 ships annually during the training period.

The Pilot Evaluation Committee tracks each trainee’s progress and, based on written criteria, determines when the trainee has successfully completed the training.  The Committee recommends to the Board when the trainee is ready to enter the ranks as a commissioned and licensed Bar Pilot.  By the time they finish the training program; each trainee will have handled every type of vessel coming into the Bay and will have navigated to and from every facility multiple times.


Once Commissioned by the State Board of Pilot Commissioners, every Bar Pilot is required by the Board to participate in a Continuing Professional Development Program to stay current in all vital areas. There are two separate five-year perpetual training cycles that each pilot must complete.  One, covering bridge resource management, is contracted by the Board and is currently taken at either MITAGS (the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies) or the California Maritime Academy. The other is a one-week training course, also contracted by the Board, at the internationally renowned manned model Port Revel Ship handling Centre in France.  The State of California assesses a surcharge on each ship entering the Bay to cover the cost of all of the training.