Charting a Course

Clare Redmann is paving the way for female bar pilots.

Growing up in New Orleans and Mandeville, Clare Redmann — the first female bar pilot for Associated Branch Pilots — realized that Louisiana’s rivers, bayous and lakes had a lot to offer. She fell in the love with boating, fishing and other water sports at an early age. However, it wasn’t until her junior year at the Georgia Institute of Technology that she considered the idea of pursuing a career as a bar pilot on the Mississippi River.

The Associated Branch Pilots is an organization of independent contractors funded for up to 49 state commissioned pilots who operate from Pilottown to several miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Bar pilots are the ship’s first contact when entering the Mississippi River, and Redmann says piloting the Southwest Pass can be treacherous due to the shifting bars and narrowness of the channel. That’s what makes this job so competitive.

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During college, Redmann began reaching out to industry professionals and other pilots to learn about the profession. She was told that, in addition to her college degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering, she would need to complete 365 days at sea upon an ocean-going vessel to meet the minimum qualifications for entry. And even still, there was no guarantee of acceptance into the field.

After graduating from Georgia Tech, she went to sea for a full year with a Greek shipping company as a deck cadet on an oil tanker. There, she worked on the ship’s bridge and deck, while gaining knowledge and experience transporting oil to ports in North and South America, the Caribbean and Africa. “It was during my year at sea that I observed pilots in each port and knew from that experience that [this] was the job for me,” Redmann says.

Once she completed her year at sea, she applied to the Associated Branch Pilots for an apprenticeship position. Upon receiving a majority on the first of several voting ballots, she was accepted into the Associated Branch Pilots as Boatman Eligible for Apprenticeship. Over the next five years of her training, she further developed her skills to become a bar pilot while running pilot boats on the lower Mississippi River and ultimately handling more than 1,000 ships along their route.

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“I was voted in as a pilot by the Association and was issued my State Pilot’s Commission by Governor Edwards in June 2018,” Redmann says. “It was a long journey that included sacrifices, which became hard to bear at times, but I am blessed to have had my family and friends to support and encourage me through. Because of them and the opportunities the bar pilots afforded me, I have the most amazing job in the world doing what I love.”

However, the road was not paved without challenges. For Redmann, the largest hurdle was breaking into a traditionally male-dominated industry, but she found success through pure perseverance and allowing her work to “do the talking for her.” In this way, she discovered that the job is available to anyone who is motivated enough to make the sacrifices necessary for a full-time career in this industry.

“I hope that I have paved the way for more acceptance and promise for future female applicants,” she says. “After growing up with three brothers and attending Georgia Tech — where males were 70 percent of the student body — I was used to living and working in a male dominated field.”

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In her role, Redmann’s main job is to protect the economy and environment for the state of Louisiana.

“Our job is to safely navigate all foreign flag ocean-going vessels in and out of the river in any type of weather condition,” she says. “These vessels call the lower Mississippi River ports their home. Combined, Louisiana ports generate one in five jobs in Louisiana and over $100 million in revenue annually. We also work closely with the Army Corps of Engineer to tackle Louisiana’s coastal restoration.”

The best part of her job though, is the continuous education.

“No two vessels are ever the same, and the weather and river are constantly changing, which keeps you on your toes,” Redmann says. “It is not monotonous, but rather very interesting and always engaging.”

Redmann, who moved back into the city about two years ago, now lives in the CBD and hopes to one day serve as a board member for the Association.

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