Centuries ago Hawaiians began serving as pilots for visiting vessels helping by providing local knowledge of Hawaii’s coastline.  According to an article from Hawaii Ocean Industry and Shipping News, the first record of Hawaiians serving as pilots comes from an account written by a captain aboard the HMS Resolution describing the departure from Kealakekua Bay, commanded by Capt. James Cook.

Although Hawaii’s ports may have changed over the years, one thing has not, the knowledge of pilots familiar with Hawaii’s Harbors to assist in guiding vessels into and out of port safely.

For 40 years, the Hawaii Pilots Association (HPA) has provided the pilotage services important for the smooth and safety operations within Hawaii’s commercial harbors.

HPA operates a fleet of seven pilot boats throughout the state to shuttle pilots to and from the ships off-port. There are five pilots available at all times, ready to board ships on 2 hours notice. In addition, there are supporting staff consisting of over 20 pilot boat operators and dispatchers.  

“We handle roughly 2,500 ship movements per year. There is a lot of behind the scenes administrative work to ensure smooth service and there is also a lot of inter-island travel with approximately 20 percent of piloting assignments in neighbor island ports,” explained Tom Heberle, President of the Hawaii Pilots Association. “But, it’s always an honor to walk onto the bridge of an arriving ship and welcome the captain and crew after a long sea passage.”

Once a pilot boards the ship, they work closely with the ship’s captain and navigation officers to guide a ship into or out of harbor. The captain knows his ship, and keeps the pilot informed about the capabilities and condition of the ship. The pilot’s knowledge supports the ship with port and local weather conditions. The pilot directs the movement of the ship by giving helm and engine commands to the bridge crew. If tug boats are assisting, the pilot also directs their movements via hand held VHF radio.

According to Heberle, there are some differences between piloting cruise ships vs. cargo ships, but these are mainly weather dependent. “We are normally tracking weather forecasts for several days before a cruise ship arrives, and occasionally scheduled port calls have to be canceled due to high winds.”

In addition to a pilot’s professional skills, the job may require that pilots board a ship offshore. Often a pilot must meet arriving ships several miles out at sea and climb aboard while it is moving at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour. The pilot often climbs aboard via a rope ladder that can be up to 30 feet long, a challenge in rough seas.

Heberle says there is lots of opportunity in the industry but notes there is a projected shortfall in qualified applicants expected over the next 20 years throughout the world as the path requires at least 10-15 years prior experience working on board ships. In his opinion, “The best way to get started is by attending one of the maritime academies or enrolling in an apprenticeship program. There are seven maritime academies in the United States that offer a traditional college education combined with shipboard training. The alternative route of enrolling in an apprenticeship program offers a fast track to shipboard employment.”

As for the cruise ships in general, Heberle commented that after the big increase in the number of cruise ships visiting Hawaii in the early 2000’s, cruise ship traffic has been fairly steady since 2006. He expects the largest challenge will be working to keep Hawaii’s harbors ready for the larger size of today’s ships. Through good planning and additional pilot training courses they will be able to deliver smooth and safe services as ship sizes continue to increase. 

To learn more about HPA visit  hawaiipilots.net/riversafe/home

Captain Tom Heberle, who has been the president of the HPA for the past seven years and a member of the association for 20 years, is a State of Hawaii licensed port pilot who has guided countless ships to port. He is one of only eight senior pilots that provide 24-7 pilotage services for the four major Hawaiian Islands,

Heberle, originally from Buffalo, graduated from King Point (the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy), before heading out to sea as a deck officer on merchant ships. He’s served on a wide variety of ships from bulk carriers to oil tankers to passenger ships. He was introduced to Hawaii during his last seagoing position as Captain on the M.V. MOKU PAHU, a ship that was owned by the Hawaii Sugar Grower’s Association. His regular runs had him traveling between Hawaii and different refineries on the mainland before he settled in Hawaii.


The Marimed Foundation program in partnership with Alu Like, Inc. and funded through the U.S. Department of Education allows Native Hawaiian women and men to participate in a free, four-week program that provides hands-on skills training and experience to start a career in the Maritime industry. The program known as Maritime Careers Exploration (MCE), started in 2013 and has helped more than 200 individuals of all ages navigate their way to successful careers at sea, and ashore.

“MCE is challenging, but not difficult.” said Matt Claybaugh, president and CEO of the Marimed Foundation. “With thousands of jobs at sea and ashore, the program provides a solid entry level foundation to help students become familiar with the skills and qualifications required.”

In addition to the insight and knowledge learned from company visits and classroom work, the students also experience a seven-day voyage at the end of the program where they put all their new skills and hands-on education to work.

Upon completion of the four-week program, students receive several certifications including a Transportation Workers Identification Credential, a Merchant Mariner’s Credential, which is an introductory level credential for anyone employed on a U.S. flagged vessel, and CPR and First aid certifications. 

The program has successfully helped many graduates, including Chanel Peters now working in the cruise industry as an Engineer, Wiper aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of America based out of Honolulu.

 “While attending the program I was able to get the feel of working in all positions, we did everything from plotting where we were headed to on the charts, to driving the ship, working the galley, line handling and more. It was amazing being out at sea, I never thought I would be working on a cruise ship. The opportunity to work with, and beside different Engineer Officers, do different types of jobs like assisting in fixing the engines, fuel bunkering, and more has been a very good learning experience,” said Peters.

“The MCE program has provided me with everything I needed to get started on the journey to becoming a Merchant Marine,” she continued. “I’ve build great relationships and learned so much from the different companies and unions, and I plan to continue to finish my sea time and keep striving to be a better professional.”

“The greatest need across the industry is to find more individuals to replace the mariners who are aging out. For most people the biggest challenge in our industry is clearly the time spent away from home and family, but a Maritime career can be very rewarding. We just graduated our 18th class and 220th student from the program this month and hope to continue providing this pathway for future Merchant Marines that will become the future generation of those critical to the success of the Maritime industry.” Said Matt Claybaugh. For more information on the Marimed Foundation or MCE program visit www.marimed.org



On May 2, 2018, the Coast Guard Foundation(CGF) held its 16th annual dinner to honor the efforts of the United States Coast Guard’s Fourteenth District. Since 2005 Cruise Line International Association – Northwest Canada (CLIA-NWC) has sponsored this annual event which raises money to allow the CGF to award scholarships and grants in support of Coast Guard spouses and children.

The CGF is a national non-profit organization founded in 1969 and is an independent organization separate to the U.S. Coast Guard. It provides vital support that the U.S. government cannot provide to Coast Guard members and their families. The founding directors were Coast Guard veterans who served together during World War II.

CLIA-NWC is proud to support this annual event in conjunction with the many other generous sponsors who appreciate the outstanding contributions that the Coast Guard makes in the islands and around the world.  For more information about the Coast Guard Foundation visit www.coastguardfoundation.org



The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) held its 3rd Annual Hawaii Cruise Summit April 28 – May 6. Over the course of the week, cruise executives representing various CLIA member lines including, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and more, had the opportunity to meet with Hawaii government officials, visit ports and meet representatives from major attractions and tour operations. 

On April 30, Cruise Line International Association – North West Canada (CLIA-NWC) sponsored the breakfast meeting where cruise executives received a briefing from Darrell Young, Deputy Director of the Hawaii State Department of Transportation Harbors Division (DOT-H) about local ports and planning. 

Prior to the briefing Shannon McKee of Access Cruise shared some statistics on the overall global cruise market from the 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report. In general, the industry is trending toward increasing the number and size of ships. According to the report McKee cited, an estimated 26.7 million passengers this year will grow to 39.6 million by 2027 for a 48 percent increase over 10 years. In addition, Alaska and the Caribbean are poised for record years.

The Executive Director of the Oahu Visitors Bureau(OVB), Noelani Schilling-Wheeler and OVB Director of Sales Kainoa Daines, Laci Goshi Tourism Brand Manager of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Charlie Toguchi of CLIA-NWC were all in attendance. After the meeting, the group proceeded to pier inspections in Honolulu Harbor on Oahu before departing to visit ports on Kauai, the Island of Hawaii, and Maui.

“The annual cruise summit continues to provide an invaluable opportunity in bringing key cruise executives to the State to meet with on-island partners, help shape the future of Hawaii’s cruise industry, and experience first-hand what the Hawaiian Islands have to offer,” said Laci Goshi of HTA.

Back Row:  Noelani Schilling-Wheeler (OVB), Jamie Barut (PolyAd), Kainoa Danes (OVB), Russell Benford (RCCL), LeVar Kennings (RCCL), Richard Boydon (Princess Cruises) Front Row:  Melinda Oliveras (Carnival), Jessica Potter (Holland America), Carrie Weems (Norwegian), Jennifer Benner (Norwegian), Alina Juliachs (Access Cruise), Ellen Lynch (Holland America Group), Francine Trivett (RCCL), Shannon McKee (Access Cruise), Karen (DOT), Laci Goshi (HTA 

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