Massachusetts Pilot Agreements

Massachusetts Pilot Agreements: Everything You Need to Know

Pilot agreements refer to contracts between a port authority and a vessel operator, allowing the operator to navigate a specific waterway or dock at a specific port. These agreements are essential for port operations as they enable the efficient movement of goods and people across the water.

In Massachusetts, pilotage services are overseen by the Massachusetts Board of Harbor Commissioners. The Board establishes pilotage rates and regulations for pilot operations in the state. Under Massachusetts law, all vessels over 100 gross tons must employ a licensed pilot while navigating state waters.

Types of Pilot Agreements in Massachusetts

There are four types of pilot agreements that operators can acquire in Massachusetts. These include:

1. General Pilotage

General pilotage agreements cover the piloting of vessels within Massachusetts ports and harbors. These agreements allow pilots to embark and disembark from vessels in designated areas.

2. Coastal Pilotage

Coastal pilotage agreements are for coastal navigation. They cover travel outside of state waters along with transit within them. They apply to vessels of 500 gross tons or more.

3. Bay State Cruise Company

Bay State Cruise Company operates the only pilotage service in Massachusetts that handles passengers. The service operates in Boston Harbor and its surrounding ports.

4. New Bedford Harbor

New Bedford Harbor is the only Massachusetts port that operates its own pilot service. Pilots cover vessels navigating the waters of the harbor and the contiguous waterways and areas.

Benefits of Pilot Agreements

Pilotage is essential in ensuring the safety of both vessels and ports. A pilot is a licensed professional trained in the navigation of specific waterways, and their presence onboard a vessel enhances safety.

Additionally, pilotage ensures that vessels navigate through waterways efficiently. Pilots optimize the route of a vessel, speed, and maneuvering to minimize the time and cost involved in moving goods and people through the water.

Finally, pilotage provides a valuable source of income for port authorities in Massachusetts and supports the local economy. By enabling the efficient movement of goods and people, pilots more effectively promote trade and commerce, creating direct and indirect job opportunities.


Pilot agreements are necessary for the safe and efficient navigation of vessels into and out of Massachusetts ports. They help to ensure that vessels move goods and people through the waterways quickly and cost-effectively while adhering to strict safety rules. To learn more about pilotage and Massachusetts pilot agreements, visit the Massachusetts Board of Harbor Commissioners website.