Paul Van Wezemael, coastal pilot with Pilotage:
“I assist vessels of various lengths when they enter and leave the ports of Zeebrugge, Oostende and Nieuwpoort. Under normal circumstances I board the ship. In bad weather, it can be that I am brought aboard by helicopter or I can assist the captain by means of shore-based pilotage, using radar images and VHF (radio-communication). As a pilot, above all you have to be stress resistant. Not only do you have to communicate and to plan, but you also have to anticipate and to improvise.”
Pilotage is responsible for pilotage tasks and for bringing pilots aboard vessels on important shipping routes, which are assigned by the Flemish Authorities. A pilot’s task is to assist the captain with navigating and manoeuvring the vessel.
Pilotage at sea is carried out with the state-of-the-art SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) vessels. For vessels that are not equipped to be operated by SWATH, this is still done the 'old fashioned way' with a yawl (a small,open and engine-driven boat). Another possibility is “shore-based pilotage”, which means that the captain aboard is assisted by a pilot operating out of a shore-based radar station.
Pilotage also issues advice on high-risk transports, vessels that are difficult to manoeuvre, buoys and beacons, salvage of wrecks and deepening of fairways. Pilotage thus contributes to safe and efficient shipping to and from Flemish harbours.
Together with Shipping Assistance Division, Fleet and Coastal Division, Pilotage is part of the agency for Maritime and Coastal Services (MDK).