Pilotage of vessels into and out of the Ports of St Peter Port, St Sampson and the roadstead is compulsory and can be either by General or Special Pilotage (St Peter Port only). Private leisure craft using the Ports providing they do not exceed 25 metres LOA for St Sampson's and 30 metres LOA for St Peter Port are exempt from pilotage. Vessels licensed under the Small Commercial Vessels' Codes carrying no more than 12 passengers and with a waterline length of less than 24 metres are also exempt.
Special Pilots are Masters or Mates of liner-trade vessels that have passed the relevant Pilotage Examination and have maintained the minimum number of entries and exits per annum. These Pilots are company-specific and may not act as General Pilots.
The General Pilotage Service is covered by Pilots who are self-employed, but act in unison to operate the Pilotage Service as required by law. The General Pilots are based at St Peter Port and St Sampson's Harbours and operate a 24-hour service. There are Pilot boats based at both Harbours. The Pilotage Service operates on VHF Channel 12 (ALRS Vol 6 (1)).
The fees for acts of General and Special Pilotage are set annually by Resolution of the States of Guernsey.
Whilst General Pilotage is available for all territorial waters of the Islands of Guernsey Herm and Jethou, the compulsory Pilotage Zone is defined as that area bounded:
- On the north, by a line joining Fort Le Plomb and Grandes Brayes Rocks, and by a line joining Grandes Brayes Rocks and Grande Amphrocque.
- On the east by a line joining Grande Amphrocque and Goubinère and by a line joining Goubinière and the Lower Heads Buoy.
- On the south by a line joining the Lower Heads Buoy and St Martin's Point.
The roadstead consists of that area of the Pilotage Zone bounded:
- On the north by a line joining the Salarie and Crevichon.
- On the south by a line joining Les Terres Point and the Grande Fauconnaire Rock.
- on the east by a line intersecting the lines referred to in the two preceding paragraphs and obtained by extending a line joining the Vale Mill and Mont Crevelt Tower.
Vessels may transit the Pilotage Zone, provided they do not enter either Port or the roadstead without a Pilot, but this is not recommended.
Vessels moving from berth to berth must do so under the pilotage of a General or Special Pilot.
The following vessels must be under General Pilotage:
- Vessels with an overall length greater than 131 metres.
- Vessels carrying explosives in bulk, as defined from time to time in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.
The following vessels are exempted vessels (ie pilotage is optional but recommended if it is the first visit to the Island):
- Vessels belonging to Her Majesty.
- Vessels belonging to, or under the control of, a Department of Her Majesty's Government if used exclusively for the purposes, other than mercantile, supply or support purposes, of such Department.
- Vessels not carrying passengers for hire and reward, which:
St Peter Port
- are less than 40 metres length overall and do not proceed to the east of a line joining the south east corner of the Cambridge Pier and the north east corner of the Castle Emplacement (or old Lifeboat Slip), or
- are less than 30 metres length overall and proceed to the west of that line.
- are less than 25 metres in length overall.
- (A vessel licensed by the States of Guernsey Board of Administration under the Hired Boats and Passenger Boats (Guernsey) Law 1989.
- A vessel licensed under the provisions of The Passenger Vessels (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 1970.