General Stipulations

The Pilotage at Leixões is exclusively carried out by Pilots  of the Piloting Department of APDL - Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo, SA.

Pilotage is the public service that consists of technical assistance  to Captains of vessels during navigation and manoeuvres in waters under national sovereignty and jurisdiction, so as to ensure safety. (Decree-Law 48/2002, art. 1 /1)

It is carried out by piloting professionals of ports and harbours, duly qualified and certified, with experience of piloting and manoeuvring ships in restricted waters, and who have in-depth knowledge of the local physical conditions and the legal stipulations and regulations applicable at the Port of Leixões.

The Pilots of the Port of Leixões are Merchant Navy Officers, graduated at the Dom Henrique Nautical School, most of whom have the Merchant Navy Captain Seafaring Permit

At the Port of Leixões the  Port Authority carries out the practical training. Trainees are continually assessed over one and a half years, on board the ships and in the coordination station, after which the Authority issues the respective Certificate.

The Piloting Department, together with the Leixões VTS, is integrated into the Shipping and Piloting Coordination Division, under the responsibility of the Port Operations and Safety Department of the Port Authority.

This integration and articulation guarantees the efficacy and efficiency required to ensure smooth navigation and high safety standards in approaches and manoeuvres to enter and exit the port, and in the shipping information and assistance.

Compulsory Piloting Area

Use of the  Pilotage is compulsory:

Leixões: inside the port and up to an outer limit of 2 miles, centred on the breakwater lighthouse (ram) and for ships destined for or which depart from the Leixões ocean terminal (single buoy), within 3 miles centred at Leça lighthouse.

Douro: In the whole navigable zone of the River Douro, downstream from the Dom Luis I bridge and up to the outer limit of 2 miles, centred on Felgueiras lighthouse.

Pilotage Exemption

The following vessels are exempt from compulsory  pilotage:

a) Warships, vessels and auxiliary units of the Navy, Maritime Police and National Guard.

b) National coastal navigation vessels that are temporarily authorised to operate this traffic, belonging to or working for the port authority.

c) Local traffic vessels, local tugboats and auxiliary boats or others that are temporarily undertaking activity in the local area.

d) Vessels allocated to the execution of port works.

e) Local and coastal fishing vessels.

f) Vessels sidling along the quay, without losing contact with it, provided that  the captain or his direct substitute commands them. Exceptions are made for special safety situations outlined in the regulations of the port authority.

g) Recreational boats.

h) Boats whose captain possesses the  Pilotage Exemption Certificate.


Pilotage Exemption Certificate

The Pilotage Exemption Certificate consists of an authorisation granted to the captain of trading vessels to navigate and manoeuvre inside the compulsory piloting area of a port without using  pilotage (Decree-Law no. 48/2002, art. 15).

To apply for a  pilotage exemption certificate a request must be made with proof:

  1. That over the last 12 months  the applicant has called  the port at least six times as captain
  2. Of the frequented port area or areas
  3. Of the gross tonnage of the vessels
  4. That the applicant speaks Portuguese or English

(Ordinance 288/2012)

The  pilotage exemption certificate is limited to vessels with maximum gross tonnage that the captain commanded during the aforementioned period and areas.

The  pilotage exemption certificate may not be used when the bearers:

a) Are not in command of the ship

b) Command vessels that are transporting class 1 and class 7 cargo and tanker ships that transport classes 2, 3 and 8 cargo of the classification outlined in chapter VII of the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS 74), and described in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, or tanker ships with non-degasified ballast.

Service Request

Requests for  pilotage must be made up to one hour before the time that the manoeuvre is scheduled for, so that the pilot can be nominated.

It is to be made by the shipping agent in the Port Management Computerised application (GCP) of the Port Authority.

In the event of an emergency, the Port of Leixões is in permanent watch to VHF 16 and 12, guaranteeing immediate nomination of the Pilot.

The  Pilotage for ships that approach the River Douro is carried out by Pilots of Leixões up to the Dom Luis I bridge.

Contracted Staff: 1 Supervisor + 15 Pilots
Timetable: 24 hours a day x 365 days a year

Communications: Call - VHF 12 *
                           Work -     VHF 14 *
(* Permanent watch)      

Tel: (+351) 22 999 07 00
Fax: (+351) 22 999 07 06
Mail: pilotos@apdl.pt

Pilot Embarkation

The pilot embarks the vessel by means of appropriate launches that are specifically certified for the service.

Despite the fact that the nautical chart of the approach to the Port of Leixões marks the pilot embarkation point at around 2 miles WSW of the breakwater, in bad weather and sea conditions, and taking into account the size of the ship, the Pilot must keep the necessary distance to carry out the rotation manoeuvre with the ship moving, in order to create shelter for the board that the pilot deems advisable.

When the embarkation takes place in the open sea, in adverse sea conditions, the ship must prepare the embarkation ladder for the pilot on both boards so that the pilot may board at the most favourable side, depending on the wind and wave movement.

The ladder should be lowered to approximately 1.5 metres above the waterline.

It is not advisable to use a Hoister ladder, and it is forbidden to use a Hoister ladder in bad sea conditions, so the ship should have an alternative.

When the sea conditions do not allow the Pilot to safely embark within the established limits, the service may be provided through assisted remote piloting.

Assisted remote pilotage is carried out by the  pilotage from a position outside the ship to a location that allows the Pilot to embark.

Smaller ships may navigate to the shelter of the breakwater to enable the embarkation, provided that:

  • The safety requirements defined in the port regulations are complied with
  • A favourable statement is issued from the Piloting Department, after assessment of the sea conditions at the entrance of the port.
  • The Captain explicitly accepts to make the approach to the inside of the breakwater without a Pilot on board.
  • The pilot launch remains present outside when the pilot has embarked, providing assistance and monitoring the approach.
  • It is not a tanker ship, regardless of its size.


Reference Ln-1
Register Number L-2023-AL
Hull Fibreglass
Length (metres) 15,75
Breadth (metres) 4,46
Depth 1,90
Displacement Light 23 tons
Displacement Loaded 25 tons
Engine Power (H.P.) 2 x 385 HP
Maximum Speed (Miles/Hour) 22 knots
Draught to Stern (Feet) 1,25


Launches Longas Perlongas Sobreiras
Reference LK-1 LM-1 LJ-1
Register Number P-4-L L-2019-AL L-2007-AL
Hull Wood Fiberglass Fiberglass
Length (m) 14,75 12 7,4
Breadth (m) 3,73 3,95 2,75
Depth 1,65 1,65 1,42
Gross Tonnage 22,94 16,68 5,42
Net Tonnage 6,84 5 1,63
Engine Power (H.P.) 197 640 227
Maximum Speed (Miles/hour) 10 35 14
Draught to Stern (Feet) 1,5 1 0,78