Larger Ships and a Pilot's Role in a Global Economy


"To most people the size of the ships coming and going on the Mississippi River is daunting. Rightfully so, as they are so big it’s often hard to find words to describe them.  I was nineteen years old when I began tying up the ships entering our port. I then helped to dock ships working as a Tugboat Captain for another 18 years. Even now, after navigating these vessels as a River Pilot for more than 20 years, I remain as awestruck with their size and value as I was as a young boy. 

Shipping on the Mississippi is a powerful economic engine providing economic output of $182.1 billion dollars in Louisiana. We are part of a global transportation system unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Louisiana citizens are proud to be part of a global transportation system unparalleled anywhere else in the world.  Moving large amounts of cargo great distances can only be done effectively by ship, and I do not see that changing any time in the near future. Remarkably, this efficient and inexpensive way to transport cargo results in 95% of everything made being moved by a ship.

During my career of 40 years on the river I have witnessed the ships we handle grow in size exponentially. Larger ships means transporting tons more cargo on each vessel, making cost efficiencies attractive for operators.  Yet bigger ships equals bigger risk and mitigating the risks of these larger vessels is our responsibility as pilots. Larger vessels require deeper drafts in the river, which means that pilots must always be alert to perfecting their skills to safely navigate in and out of our complex river system.


Imperative to remember is that the State River Pilot on board these foreign vessels is the sole individual tasked with protecting the state of Louisiana’s citizens, environment, and economy, all while facilitating the safe transport of more cargo than any other port complex in the world.

Crescent River Port Pilots take on this weighted responsibility in order to proudly serve our state. Louisiana’s Mississippi River is an amazing economic engine; a natural blessing given by God that allows us to move products and cargo that touch the world.

I am keenly aware that river pilots are an integral part of a vast port complex, and as President of this accomplished group of men and women I am humbled and honored to know that we have done our job to safely keep this economy moving for over 110 years."

Captain E. Michael Bopp
President, Crescent River Port Pilots Association

Pilots, April 2018CRPPA