Harbor pilots can make $434,000 a year, face high fatality rates, and are responsible for guiding hulking cargo ships into ports

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The average harbor pilot at the Port of Los Angeles makes $434,000 a year, but also faces a one in 20 chance of dying on the job, according to a book from The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims that was published in 2021. The book, “Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door — Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy,” breaks down the complicated dance that brings a shipment from Asia to US buyers in a matter of days

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Harbor pilots are some of the highest-paid municipal employees and represent a crucial part of a shipment’s journey. The average marine pilot in the US makes between $154,000 to $285,000 in total annual compensation, according to GlassDoor.

Any cargo ship looking to come into a port must pay local pilots to safely bring the ship in to dock. The role is highly risky, as the pilots face the dangers of being run over by a massive cargo ship, pitched overboard in rough waters, or slammed between two boats.

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