Safety and the Environment

The safe conduct of pilotage the primary mission of the Columbia River Pilots and our organization takes this mission seriously. In providing pilotage service, the protection of the Public and the environment is a foremost responsibility. One of our most important considerations is risk mitigation.  Balancing vessel safety, the protection of river users and property and transit efficiency is the core charge of a Columbia River Pilot.

In addition to the considerable experience and training requirements, our Pilots complete on-going Continuing Professional Development that includes training in Manned Ship Models and Full Mission Bridge Ship Simulators.  We are also active participants in the Lower Columbia Region Harbor Safety Committee, E-Nav Technology Development and Regional River Safety Team Meetings.

Maritime Commerce – an Economic Driver of Our Region

The Columbia Snake River system is a vital transportation link for the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The economies of these four states rely on the trade and commerce that flows up and down the most important commercial waterway of the Northwest.  The Oregon wheat industry depends largely on the Columbia Snake River System to carry its product to market.  Approximately 85% of Oregon wheat is exported, largely to Pacific Rim countries. River transport of bulk commodities like wheat, is the most efficient way to move product to the ports.  In 2009, of all product exported through the Portland Harbor, 48% was wheat.  10 million tons of wheat were exported through Columbia River ports.  More than 4 million tons of petroleum products are received at terminals in Portland each year.  Approximately half of that volume is barged upriver to inland ports.  Lower Columbia River grain exports are expected to nearly double from 8.5 million tons today to 15.1 million tons. This increase is due in large part to the deepening of the navigation channel on the Lower Columbia River.  (Information provided by PNWA.)

The Columbia River Pilots work together in collaboration with ports, industry and public agencies to support safe navigation on the waterways to help promote trade and economic development throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Advice for Recreational Boaters

The Columbia River System is a recreational delight. Popular activities include fishing, swimming, sailing and kite boarding.  Oftentimes recreational river users are unaware of the potential dangers of operating in close proximity to commercial vessels.  The Columbia River Pilots are concerned for your safety and offer the following advice:

If you hear a commercial vessel sound 5 short whistle blasts, you are dangerously close to the vessel.  If in doubt about what to do, maneuver away from the vessel and, if crossing the river, go behind it.

Following are examples of unsafe situations to be avoided:

Fishing Boats in the Channel OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Jet Skis Riding the Bow Wave OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sailboats Tacking in Front of Ship OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Unaware of Approaching Wake OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA