Pilot boats are typically operated by pilotage companies or port authorities, and are used to transfer pilots to and from ships that are entering or leaving port. When a ship is approaching a port, it will typically send a request for a pilot to the port authority, who will dispatch a pilot boat to meet the ship and bring the pilot onboard. The pilot will then assume responsibility for navigating the ship through the port and to its designated berth. Once the ship has docked, the pilot will disembark and return to the port on the pilot boat.
In addition to transporting pilots, pilot boats may also be used for a variety of other tasks, including search and rescue operations, towing, and other specialized maritime activities.