The Salary of a Harbor Docking Pilot

Harbor docking pilots liaise with the harbor master to plot the movements of vessels.
Harbor docking pilots liaise with the harbor master to plot the movements of vessels. (Image: Images)

Harbors are like the doorways that separate land and sea. Harbor docking pilots operate small waterborne vessels that guide larger ships through the natural and man-made hazards found in harbors so that they can safely moor at their berths to pick up or deposit goods and passengers. Pilots push and pull ships through reefs, shoals, buoys and other watercraft. They will guide many ships through a harbor every day. Salary levels for the role are likely to depend upon factors such as location and industry sector.

Average Salary

In May 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a survey of employment and pay levels across the nation. It categorized harbour docking pilots alongside other pilots, mates and captains of vessels, and concluded that the average yearly pay rate across the profession was $70,500. Synthesized from data supplied by almost 30,000 individual workers, this equates to an hourly rate of $33.89, a weekly wage of $1,356 or $5875 per month.

Salary by Industry

Of the categories of the shipping industry detailed by the bureau in its survey, the two in which harbor docking pilots are most likely to work are support activities for water transportation and deep sea, coastal and great lakes water transportation. The bureau listed the average salaries within these sectors of the industry as $82,800 and $72,560, respectively.

Salary by Geography

Wage comparison website, at the time of writing, published the results of a survey analyzing docking pilot salaries in some major U.S. cities. Among the most lucrative locations were Miami and Houston, averaging $113,058 and $95,940, respectively. New York City was listed at $75,663, Los Angeles at $62,284 and Orlando at just $56,415. The bureau’s statistics listed Alabama and Texas among the best-paying states, with averages of $85,390 and $84,880, respectively. Louisiana and Virginia had similar pay rates - $77,020 and $75,240, respectively – with Alaska at just $62,670.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the growth of international trade through U.S. ports and the need to replace the large number of individuals expected to retire from the shipping industry as the primary reasons for employment growth over the decade from 2008 to 2018. It posits a 15 percent growth in employment opportunities for water transportation occupations over that time, compared to between 7 and 13 percent for the country as a whole, across all professions. This should mean that salary levels for harbour docking pilots remain very competitive.

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