I also know this doesn't apply only to cruiseships, so at what size is a pilot required, or are they even required at all?
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You do know you opened a 7 year old thread...Obviously he was not aware of the over 6 year old threads are not to be opened rule.
Some or many pilots graduate from the Merchant Marine Academy, which is why you'll never hear anyone from the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, or West Point talking about Merchant Marines; they'll make a hell of a lot more money than they ever would, to quote my brother, lol.My oldest DS actually learned of the Merchant Marine Academy from his retired Navy uncle. Son was talking about Annapolis for engineering when his uncle told him that some of the finest ship's engineers he had sailed with came from USMMA. Son looked into it, loved the program, and applied; he's now a junior (second class MIDN). He's literally sailed around the world. Being a marine engineering major he'll never be a harbor pilot, but he has a great career ahead of him.