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Boarding by helicopterEmbarking and disembarking of Columbia River Bar Pilots is accomplished by helicopter or boat. The primary method of pilot boarding is by helicopter. The Columbia River Bar Pilots also keep one of two pilot boats on standby at all times.

Vessels should not approach closer than 5 miles west of the CR Buoy until advised by a pilot. Pilots boarding by helicopter will generally board within four to 10 miles northwest to southwest of the CR Buoy (Columbia River Entrance Buoy). Boarding by pilot boat generally takes place in the vicinity of the CR buoy.

Helicopter Transfer Procedures:

Operations will be in accordance with ICAO regulations and with the International Chamber of Shipping’s Guide to Helicopter/Ship Operations rules.

Seahawk Pilot HelicopterThe pilot helicopter SEAHAWK is 42.5 feet (12.96m) long with a rotor span of 35.5 feet (10.83m) and has a yellow body with the word PILOT prominently displayed on the side. Vessel configuration, sea state and wind force will determine if a hoist or landing will be conducted. To provide the highest degree of safety for boarding, the master may be requested to alter course or speed of the vessel, if safe to do so. The objective is to provide minimum roll of the vessel at the time of transfer.


  1. After initial contact, the arriving vessel shall call the Columbia River Bar Pilots on VHF channel 9 when 15 miles from the CR Buoy.
  2. Pilot helicopter SEAHAWK will be dispatched to the vessel with the marine pilot.
  3. The arriving vessel must remain on VHF channel 9 for helicopter operations until the marine pilot is safely transferred and the helicopter has departed the area.

Masters, prior to helicopter arrival, must confirm the following:

Land-on-Deck Operations:

Pilot Boat Transfer Procedures:

If the arriving vessel is advised that the pilot boat will be used for pilot transfer, one of two boats will be used:

  Pilot Boat Astoria   The pilot boat ASTORIA, which is 72 feet long with a yellow hull and yellow superstructure with the word PILOT prominently displayed on the side of the house
  Pilot Boat Columbia   The pilot boat COLUMBIA, which is 72 feet long with an orange hull and orange superstructure with the word PILOT prominently displayed on the side of the house

When either the ASTORIA or the COLUMBIA is used, communications will be on VHF channel 13 and the speed of the vessel should be approximately 12 knots.

General Ladder Requirements:

When transferring pilots off Astoria, the pilot boat Connor Foss is used. It is 65 feet long with a dark green hull and white superstructure. The word PILOT is prominently displayed on a signboard forward of the house. When using the Connor Foss, the pilot ladder should be rigged midship, two meters above the waterline, in accordance with SOLAS requirements. Maximum speed of the vessel should be 9 knots.

New SOLAS requirements from July 1, 2012
Ships constructed after July 1, 2012 must comply with the new equipment and arrangement requirements of SOLAS Regulation V/23. Equipment and arrangements replaced on or after July 1, 2012 on existing ships shall, so far is reasonable and practicable, comply with the requirements of this regulation. Reference the International Maritime Pilot Association's Pilot Ladder Brochure for more details.

A pilot who has climbed a sound ladder, well rigged, and attended by an officer and a deck party will be in the right frame of mind to give his best attention to the safety of the vessel.

In the interest of safety of all state pilots and of the crews navigating the waters of Oregon, the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots endorses and supports the rigging of pilot ladders to meet the international requirements of SOLAS regulations.