The pilot in the bridge team


Pilots, tugs and line handlers - everything grinds to a halt without them. Ships from all over the world sail into Hamburg day-in day-out and in all weathers. This experienced partnership, coordinated by the pilot, makes up their bridge team.In the eyes of the law, the pilots are advisers who support the captain based on their familiarity with local navigation and conditions. But in actual fact the captain coming in to port usually hands over the nautical command of the ship - and hence the bridge team - to the pilot. This is because of the split-second decisions which have to be made and the tug handling which requires radio communication.


65 harbour pilots and around 25 modern tugs with Schottel, Voith-Schneider or ASD Azimut Stern Drive propulsion and a bollard pull of up to 80 tons all ensure that large vessels can dock safely or find their way into the waterways of the Elbe. The most difficult docking manoeuvres within the Hamburg shipyards’ dry or floating repair docks are safely carried out. Due to the influence of the tides on the water-level (3.6 m tidal range), ships with a maximum draft of 15.10 m (freshwater draft) can sail in on the tide (under normal weather conditions). 


The changeable weather conditions, the restrictions caused by the water depth and the changing direction and strength of the currents all have a considerable influence on manoeuvring, and on top of this, the available room for manoeuvre has not grown in relation to the size of the vessels.
It is only the Hamburg harbour pilots’ high degree of professionalism which enables them to give vessels such quality service under all conditions, while paying strict attention to safety and pushing the limits of what is physically possible.

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