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Pilot Certificates

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    Pilot Certificates

    Can anyone tell me if the Coast Guard has always been in charge of issuing and signing pilot certificates? I have always understood that these were issued by the Federal Government. Were they ever issued by states or local governments? Would they have always been signed by a Coast Guard official? Would a governor have ever signed pilot certificates? Capt. Blum you are probably the authority on this subject.


    Capt. Blum cannot access .org at work, but I'm sure he'll answer at home... licenses were issued in earlier times by other groups. 2 licenses I'm looking at here on my wall were issued by the U.S. Inspectors. Steamboat Inspection Service was the whole name, I believe. Here is a pilot's license:
    "This is to certify that William D. Humphry has given satisfactory evidence to the undersigned Local Inspectors of steam Vessels for the District of Louisville Ky that he is a skillful PILOT of steam vessels and can be entrusted to perform such duties upon the Waters of the Cumberland River, navigating between Burnside Ky. and Carthage Tenn. and he is hereby licensed to act as FIRST CLASS PILOT on river steam vessels of 250 gross tons for the term of five years from this date, on the above named route. Given under our hands this 22 day of November 1917. Signed by: J.E. Abraham, Inspector of Hulls; and Isaac W. Betts Inspector of Boilers."

    The second one is for Chief Engineer, sorry its blurry but it is framed.
    "This is to certify that William H. Wood has been duly examined by the undersigned Local Inspectors of Steamboats for the District of Louisville KY as to his qualifications as an Engineer of Steam Vessels, and found to be a competent and reliable person to be entrusted with the powers and duties of CHIEF ENGINEER on noncondensing steam vessels of 1700 gross tons, and he is therefore hereby licensed to act as such for the term of five years from this date. Given under our hands this 8th day of March 1900." Signed by: J.E. Abraham, Inspector of Hills and JJ Dunn, Inspector of Boilers.
    Attached Files


      Ted, the Coast Guard took this over in the 1940's. Prior to that it was done by the Steamboat Inspection Service. I think they have always had to be signed by the issuing officer, or "by direction" of the issuing officer by one of his subordinates.

      There are state licenses as well. Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Maryland and New York (and probably others) are some states that still issue licenses for pilots. I know in the case of New York, they are the sole issuing body for licenses on Chautauqua Lake and probably other bodies of water as well. In Louisiana, state commissioned pilots must also hold a federal license. Where there is no federal jurisdiction, I would think it is up to the states to be the licensing authority, if they so choose. I would assume they'd be signed by the governor -- Capt. Ted Davisson can shed some light on that. Hope this helps.


        Certification of engineers

        Wasn't the wording on the older certificates grand?
        A question arises: Chief Wood was licensed for noncondensing steam vessels of 1700 gross tons. Today's licenses don't differentiate between condensing and noncondensing, do they? When did this change, perhaps when the CG took over the licensing, and when did that occur? (This ended up 3 questions)


          Judy, I can recall seeing a non-condensing license on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE at some point in the 1970's. issued by USCG.


            Bob, the same also goes for Lake George. Since there is no navigable way out to the ocean, the State deals with licensing and inspecting here.


              State to federal licensing

              Ok, another question arises regarding this state licensing: will your time/license working on Lake George under state regs. count toward getting a CG license if you want one for say, the NATCHEZ?


                The engineer's license these days is categorized these days by "mode of propulsion," which is either steam or motor. Besides that, there are some tonnage and geographic restrictions. As far as I know, the "unlimited horsepower steam" may be impossible to get anymore, since there may be no vessels with a steam plant at or above the threshhold for unlimited horsepower these days. As far as testing goes, steam is divided into two tests: high pressure boilers, high pressure turbines. Not like I'd ever see either, but that's what I had to do for my license. When I was waiting for them to grade the tests for my first license there was a guy there waiting to test for an engineer's license. We started talking, and he asked me what tests I had. When I mentioned the steam portion he was startled to see anyone willing and able to torture themselves over steam.
                Last edited by Dan Lewis; 05-20-2010, 08:03 PM. Reason: poor grammar


                  I don't know, but I would think it would. However, tonnage would be a factor in deck/navigation licenses.


                    a LONG first attempt is in cyber jail; the problem with lengthy explanations and fat fingers.

                    The Federal government through different departments, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation and now Homeland Security have been issuing Licenses since 1857 I think it was. Early 20thlicenses were magnificent works of the engravers are--I believe steel engravings vs stone engravings.

                    Immediate post WWII CG issued licenses were just awful almost plain paper. All bore an original signature. For many years the signature was sealed with a raised seal punched over the signature. Physical paper size varied over the years until now the "Red Book" passport sized "Credential" has been on the street for slightly over a year.


                      Part II-----the term "License" no longer exists. The Credential contains OFFICER ENDORSEMENTS and RATINGS [former name of MMD such as AB or QMED].

                      Most of these changes, if not all are courtesy of 9/11 and the US joining the IMO and STCW convention. New 2010 amendments to STCW are coming on line which will produce additional changes to 46 CFR parts 10, 11 & 12.

                      The SNPRM is on the street now, public comments solicited I do believe. One proposed item is a ceremonial license which one may hang on the wall to impress the grand kids while working on the Credential--any yes POSTING the Officer Endorsement section(s) if required. There is also talk of adding to the credential an issue number such as had been on the old "classic License". This I believe is ONLY in the talk stage right now.

                      Steam is alive and well. There are questions in the data bank for Steam from DDE 1000 to Chief AHP.

                      No doubt the lion's share of the aforementioned SNPRM is intended for Blue Water folks, however the net is very large and will catch Rivers also.

                      Life ain't simple anymore and it's not your Father's Oldsmobile!


                        Originally posted by Judy Patsch View Post
                        Wasn't the wording on the older certificates grand?
                        A question arises: Chief Wood was licensed for noncondensing steam vessels of 1700 gross tons. Today's licenses don't differentiate between condensing and noncondensing, do they? When did this change, perhaps when the CG took over the licensing, and when did that occur? (This ended up 3 questions)
                        As late as 1947 engineers would be licensed for condensing or non-condensing boats. Dad had license for condensing boats earned while working on thr OMAR, JOHN J. ROWE/ORCO and GENERAL ASHBURN. Tom Greene asked Dad if he wanted to go out to California and bring the DELTA QUEEN around as all of the Greene Line engineers at the time did not have a license for condensing boats. Dad lamented to me that he was sorry that he didn't take up Tom Greene on his offer, but Dad was earning much more as an engineer with The Ohio River Co. at the time.


                          Mr G

                          Steamboat inspections and licensing has followed a winding path.

                          The Steamboat Act of May 30, 1852 was passed as an attempt to protect passengers by preventing disasters caused by boiler explosions, fires, collisions, etc. Its enforcement was placed under the Department of Treasury. Nine regions were established by the legislation. This law required only pilots and engineers be tested by the regional inspectors. It also exempted ferries, tugboats, and towboats.

                          The Act of Feb 28, 1871 established the Steamboat Inspection Service. This legislation maintained the requirements of the Steamboat Act of 1852 and added new requirements. Licensing was extended to masters and chief mates. It was designed to protect both passengers and crew.

                          On 14 Feb 1903, Congress transferred the control of the Steamboat Inspection Service to the Dept of Commerce and Labor. Its functions were transferred to the US Coast Guard during WW II.

                          On 30 Jun 1932, the Steamboat Inspection Service merged with the Bureau of Navigation which had been created to oversee the merchant marine. The combined organization was named the Bureau of Marine inspection and Navigation within the dept of Commerce.

                          I have a Masters License dated 11 Dec 1882 for the District of Pittsburgh at the following link:


                          Fran Nash


                            United States and America Documents

                            We have the last Enrollment, Inspectors Certificate and License Of Vessel Above 20 Tons For The United States And America boats when they collided. Very interesting to look at. If you have read the story of the collision you will recognize many of the names on the documents.

                            The enrollment records say they are for the 1793 “Act To Regulate The Admeasurment Or Tonnage Of Ships And Vessels Of The United States”

                            The inspection certificates were issued by the state of Ohio, Hamilton County, district of Cincinnati.

                            The License Of Vessel Above 20 Tons were also issued by “District of the Port of Cincinnati” They site the 1793 act.