Under federal law, states are empowered to regulate pilots on ships engaged in international commerce. The Federal Government retains the jurisdiction to regulate pilotage on ships engaged in interstate commerce. Therefore, South Carolina's harbor pilots hold both a Federal license, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, and a State license, issued by the South Carolina Commissioners of Pilotage.
South Carolina law requires applicants for a Pilot's license to have either a four year degree or a Third Mate's merchant mariner's license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, have satisfactory eyesight, hearing, and physical fitness, and to have completed a three-year apprenticeship for Charleston Harbor, or a two-year apprenticeship for Georgetown Harbor. In the case of Charleston Harbor, the typical apprentice completes 1200 voyages under supervision before being eligible for a restricted license. After three years of service under a restricted license, a pilot is eligible to apply for an unrestricted license. Each branch of license may only be issued by the approval of a Board of Examiners.
To maintain a license, a pilot must submit to random drug screening, and must provide a doctor's report of a physical exam annually to the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. In order to maintain a Federal License, pilots must re-apply for renewal each five years, including a description of their duties over the previous five years to document proficiency.