Three former state marine pilots have defeated attempts by a state bar pilot association to force them into a non-competition agreement.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge late last week decided that the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association could not demand non-competition promises

from departing members."We never had to sign a non-competition agreement," said Jack Going, one of the former pilots and a co-owner of Bay & Delta Towing Co.

"The action is significant," said Leo Brien, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in Oakland, Calif. "If individual competition can be introduced into the area it could lead to a more level playing field for the maritime community."

In March 1993, three state-licensed pilots - Mr. Going, Ron Charlesworth, and Stephen Ware - resigned from the bar pilot association. The three men were leaving to take over operation of Bay & Delta.

The pilot association represents all the state pilots licensed to guide ships in and out of San Francisco bay. By law, all ships in foreign commerce must have a state pilot on board when entering or leaving a U.S. harbor.

When a pilot leaves the association, he or she is entitled to a ''buyout" of $150,000 for their share of the association's interest. Under the bylaws, the pilot receives the money in payments over five years. Or, if the pilot signs a non-competition agreement, in a lump sum.

Bay & Delta said the three men signed non-competition agreements that the pilots association rejected. The association, refusing to turn over $450,000 in a lump sum, wanted the men to sign "broader" non-competition agreements. The men refused and the dispute went to court.

Judge William Cahill ruled that it is illegal for a nonprofit group like the pilots association to demand non-competition clauses from departing members, according to an announcement from Bay & Delta.

The Bay & Delta owners indicated that they are now seeking lump sum payments from the pilot association.

Officials at the pilot's association were unavailable for comment.