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Pilots' income

The maritime pilot gets personal pilot fees for his self-employed profession. His income is paid out by his brotherhood, which collects the pilot fees for him. Pilot fees are paid by every vessel that required pilot services.

Money flow

The price for pilot services is defined in the Pilot Tariff Regulation (PTR). The PTR is announced by the Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Developement in the German Federal Gazette. Since the legislator installed a monopoly for safety and environmental reasons, the tariff authority is with the government.

Pilot fees depend on vessel's size (gross tonnage, GT) and service duration (district length). The GT-dependency allows for distribution of costs according to ship's size. The average duration of the pilotage provides for a factor that incorporates pilot duty times.

The average size of ships that employ pilot services pay exactly for the average duration it takes to guide the vessel through the district. The per-hour-price is equal nationwide.

The actual pilot fees can be extracted from the PTR-tables for the district.

In case the governmental-fixed income is within certain limits in a certain time period, the table values remain the same. If it differs, the table values are to be adjusted accordingly.

To keep control over the pilots' income, the governmental authorities verify all relevant factors once a year.

The outposts of the General Directorate for Waterways and Shipping responsible for the districts are doing the encashment for the brotherhoods.

In case the ship has no national agent and no national billing address, a cash payment directly to the pilot is possible.

The pilot is not allowed to accept or ask for anything else but the fees specified in the PTR (rule #45.5 GMPA).

The brotherhood collects the pilot fees for their districts from the outposts of the General Directorate for Waterways and Shipping, which in turn collected the fees from the vessel's taking pilot services. After deducting the funds required by law and statutes the brotherhood pays out the remainder to its pilots. For the distribution it is of no importance whether the individual member is junior or senior pilot. Times and days of duty are irrelevant. Each active pilot gets exactly the same share.

The payout includes taxes, social security, health insurance, business expenses and - of course - the net income.

Although the brotherhood is responsible for the collection and distribution of pilot fees, the individual pilot is - like every other self-employed person - responsible for his (additional) social security and tax matters.


The maritime pilot under the GMPA is - unlike habor pilots - mandatory member of the German governmental retirement fund. As freelancer the pilot has to pay the full due (employer and employee share) to the fund. Since the amount is fixed and mandatory, the brotherhood is responsible for paying and is deducting the amount prior to the payout. The total amount for all maritime pilots is abt. €11 million per year (2013).

The pension paid by this governmental retirement insurance used to be sufficient to keep the living standards into the time of retirement. Well, not anymore. That's why the maritime pilot - as many others - has to pay into an extra pension plan. He has to take part of his income for that purpose.

Health insurance
There is no compulsory health insurance for freelance workers nor for the pilots' income level.

Unemployment insurance
Not applicable for freelance workers. The pilot has to take precautions for a drop of income. He has to bulid up private reserve funds from his income. This is the usual business risk of freelancers. In case of abnormal drop over long periods of time the pilot probably has to return to his primary profession: working as master at sea.

Expenses of the self-administration
The expenses of his brotherhood and for the Federal Chamber of Pilots has to be paid by the individual pilot. The brotherhood deducts these funds prior to dirstibution of pilots' income.

Accidental and liability insurance
The maritime pilot has to take precautions for these matters. Usually the brotherhood or the Federal Chamber of Pilots is organizing these kind of insurances.

After all deductions the remainder is an unsteady income. Depending on the traffic, which in turn depends on variable things (wheather, exchange-rates, bunker prices, economy, etc.) the pilots' income differs every month. From this uncertain income the pilot has to built up his own reserve fund for the case of traffic break down. No ships, no income.

The general the GMPA takes care of the pilots' income. Rule #45.3 GMPA states: "The pilot fees shall be adjusted to the result that regularly employed [work load] maritime pilots are provided with an income and social security reflecting their qualification and responsibility and that subsistence allowances can be paid to apprentice maritime pilots."

The regular employment assumes a weekly duty time of around 50 hours, which has been incorporated into the tariff structure by the governmental authorities. This means, that pilots can expect the income of a master at sea, when working abt. 50 hours a week in 24/7 mode.

Qualification includes the whole line of education and experience that he went through in the 15 years after regular school: masters license, experience time on oceangoing ships, enhanced education, apprenticeship, etc.

Responsibility is comparable to the one a master has for his ship. Only the pilot has to consider this and is responsible for a safe and fast passage through the district. After considering all facts, the maritime pilot has to decide, if it will be safe for the environment and for the vessel to guide it under the actual circumstances to the desired point. For that matter the pilot is - among other things - responsible for his own advanced training according to IMO resolution A.960 and rule 25.1 GMPA, which says: "The maritime pilot shall continuously update his knowledge necessary for his pilotage service."

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