Daring Rescue at Sea! - Houston Pilots' Duties Include Saving Lives
Pilots were on the job more than 3,000 years before the invention of the airplane. Of course, we’re talking about Maritime Pilots (a.k.a. Harbor Pilots or Port Pilots), the highly trained and experienced men and women who board ships as they enter port to relieve the ship’s captain and safely guide the vessel to dock.
We trace their history to ancient times when large ships crossing the Mediterranean had to meet the challenge of navigating the treacherous Greek islands and channels to reach port. These captains turned the helm over to pilots, who intimately knew the area’s coasts, tides, depths, and currents.
Today, the law requires licensed Pilots at most major seaports. Several Pilots’ Associations on the Texas Gulf Coast have commissioned Jim Zura to document their activities. In many cases, this required Jim to board massive cargo ships at sea from the Pilot boat, climbing up the hanging rope ladder and up the gangway (bonus video coming soon).
In many cases, this required Jim to board massive cargo ships at sea from the Pilot boat, climbing up the hanging rope ladder and up the gangway (bonus video coming soon).
The pilots’ courage in executing their duties - at all hours and regardless of inclement weather - was exemplified on a cold midnight in March. Houston pilots Brent Elrod and Justin Benecke, who were serving aboard cargo ships, became aware of voices coming from the sea below.
Unable to slow down a huge cargo vessel to perform a rescue, Elrod and Benecke immediately contacted their Houston Pilot boats with the coordinates. With deckhands using spotlights and peering over the rails, they were able to locate two fishermen whose boats had wrecked in the choppy waters. Trained in Man Overboard rescue, the pilots utilized their boat’s “Man OverBoard” (MOB) lift, which lowered a deckhand into the water to affect the rescue.
Subsequently, the U.S. Coast Guard honored the quick thinking and decisive actions of all the Houston Pilots involved in the rescue. Jim Zura had the privilege of traveling aboard several Pilot boats and a large container ship to gather scenes and interviews to recreate the event in an award-winning 15-minute documentary.