Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements

Bachelor's Degree

1 Examination

Years of Experience Vary

BRM Course Completion

$400.00 Initial Fee

$400.00 Renewal Fee

A person duly qualified to steer ships into or out of a harbor or through certain difficult waters.

Degree Requirement: 

Bachelor's Degree

An applicant must have either a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, university or maritime academy; or a United States Coast Guard-issued license to serve as third mate on all oceans aboard vessels of at least 1,600 tons, or a higher class of license.

Examination Requirement: 

1 Examination

Apprentices must pass a written examination to become a sixth-class pilot. This examination covers four topics: rules of the road, chart work, ship handling, and anchoring and local knowledge.


3 - 12 Years

Once individuals become licensed as sixth-class pilots, their training and experience must continue before they can attain a first-class license. To achieve this, they will serve for at least one year in each of five classes of licensure.  The Commission issues the following classes of pilot licenses based on the maximum draft of the vessel that may be piloted: sixth-class license, a maximum draft of 27 feet; fifth class license, a maximum draft of 32 feet; fourth-class license, a maximum draft of 35 feet; third class license, a maximum draft of 40 feet; secondclass license, a maximum draft of 45 feet; and first-class license, unlimited draft. Therefore, as a pilot gains more experience, the pilot commands larger vessels.

An individual seeking to become a pilot must first become an apprentice. A four-year apprentice will complete approximately 800 trips on the Delaware River and Bay under the supervision of a state-licensed pilot while a three-year apprentice will complete approximately 650 trips.

Continuing Education: 

BRM Course
Every 5 years, complete a Commission-approved course in bridge resource management (BRM)

Initial Licensing Fee: 


Licensure Renewal Fee: 


Licenses expire May 1 of every year. The following documentation needs to be attached in order to process a renewal:

  1. Copy of Federal first-class pilot's license, which certifies a radar observer endorsement. 
  2. The "Merchant Mariner Credential Medical Evaluation Report" of the U.S. Coast Guard indicating passage ofthe medical examination, which must occur within 120 days (4 months) of the date of application of the annual renewal.
  3. Date within the last 5 years when you completed a bridge resource management (BRM) course.


Since the Navigation Commission  for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries is a multi-state initiative between Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, reciprocity is not applicable here.