About Us

Established in March 2003, the Malta Maritime Pilots Co-operative Ltd.  provides efficient marine vessel pilot services to the two main ports of Malta – the Grand Harbour and the Port of Marsaxlokk, as well as two smaller ports – that of Marsamxett and the Port of Mġarr, Gozo.  It also provides consultancies relevant to pilotage, navigation and sea-faring. The cooperative has 16 members and in 2011 provided more than 8,400 pilot services to vessels entering Maltese Ports.

The success of Maltese ports is dependent on the efficiency of services offered at the same ports. We recognise that the service offered by the cooperative is one of the most important among the chain of services offered by our ports.

One should mention that the cooperative holds the largest amount of Marine Masters under its umbrella in Malta.  This puts it at the same level of the best harbours in the world.

In January 2011 the Malta Maritime Pilots Co-operative launched one of the most modern pilot boats on the market. This pilot boat, built in Ireland, was added to the fleet of five other boats that were being used to provide the Maltese pilotage service.

To keep abreast with the technological advancement in the sector, the cooperative invests heavily in training. This led to the cooperative opening a maritime training centre that includes one of the most advanced full mission simulator in Europe.  This simulator can be used for training, as well as to make a risk assessment when large vessels are making use of Maltese ports.

We are a COOP

We are a cooperative of 16 members who have united voluntarily to meet our common economic and social needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

Based on the internationally agreed shared values, our principles are: self-help; self-responsibility; democracy; solidarity; honesty; openness; social responsibility and caring for others.



by Dr George Said

Until not so long ago, civilian harbour pilots did not require any qualifications at all to achieve a pilot’s licence. During the 180-year British Period in Malta, the Maltese were allowed to administer their part of the harbour as long as they did not interfere with or hinder the activities of the Royal Navy. The British Fleet had its own pilotage, towing and mooring facilities. The Maltese were therefore given a free hand in running their own port section. Dockyard tug masters were permitted to act as pilots for all merchantmen and liners. Other persons who were well acquainted with the Grand Harbour and its characteristics also took on the job as pilot. Individual agents who represented various shipping lines employed their own pilots. Competition was fierce and it was not unheard of that a group of pilots who became involved in some heated industrial argument would resort to physical and verbal violence. Pilots used to embark the principal vessel via the pilot launch, which was literally a traditional Maltese harbour craft made out of wood and propelled by oars, known as ‘dgħajsa tal-pass’ with the words “Pilot Boat” painted crudely on the bows. Ships without agents were arduously fought for, and people of an older generation can still tell amusing stories of three or four pilot boats departing frantically from Customs Steps and all racing towards an open hatch in the same ship. It was literally a case of survival of the fittest.

The Pilot Boat carried a blue flag flown on an eight-foot stem mast. Each boat contained four men, two of which had to be licenced pilots, the other two being oarsmen. The boarding point for the pilots was Ricasoli Point, but this largely depended on the weather conditions. Pilots wore a bowled hat with a ribbon with the word “Pilot” printed in large lettering on it. They also had to wear a badge with their licence number on their right arm.

After boarding, the pilot was obliged to ask the master or the first officer whether the vessel carried gunpowder or any other combustible material on board. Masters who declared that their vessels were carrying more than three barrels of any such material were made to extinguish all naked flames and had to hoist a red flag on the main mast. After this safety practice was complied with, the ship was given the green light to proceed into Valletta. The pilots were also given a special allowance for boarding a quarantined vessel, and this allowance varied depending on whether they victualed aboard such vessel or not.

Traditionally, the harbour pilots’ job was handed down from father to son and was granted on a closed-shop basis. Nowadays, however, applications are open to the public and to anyone that can fulfil the requirements so that the average harbour pilot is a person who is fully qualified according to the law and who has spent a considerable amount of time at sea.

For a detailed history of the maritime pilotage in Malta, please click here.