Associated British Ports (ABP), Dave Hunter, celebrates 47 years as a pilot on the Humber Estuary, the largest harbour district in the UK, and one of his final acts of pilotage, ahead of his retirement as a VLS (very large ships) pilot, that took place earlier this month. Mr. Hunter brought the MV Propel Grace onto its berth at the Humber International Terminal on the Port of Immingham. 

Dave had originally wanted to become a draughtsman or architect when he was younger. As he was preparing to leave school, he spotted an article in a careers magazine about becoming a River Pilot, which sparked his interest in what would be an incredible career.

Dave said: “The job really jumped out at me. I had never heard of a River Pilot, and it sounded really good, so I made some enquiries. I had never been to sea, neither had my father, but later I discovered that my great, great, great, great grandfather had been a pilot on the Tyne. I was able to start an apprenticeship in 1964 and haven’t looked back since.”

Following time on the water and working through the necessary experience and qualifications, Dave became a Class 1 Humber Pilot in 1980, and 12 years later he qualified as a VLS Pilot.

Looking back across his 47 years, Dave reckons he has completed around 200 vessel movements per year, and he has enjoyed every one of them.

David added: “I have loved working with the very large ships (40,000 tonnes). Being a Humber Pilot has been a wonderful career. Without doubt the Humber Estuary is one of the hardest to navigate in the UK, but the feeling that you get from completing a job really well is like no other. It is a challenging job, but when everything goes right you feel ten foot high.”

Dave also said that “over the years I have worked with 100’s of apprentices and trainees. There is a lot of support for those working towards becoming a Humber Pilot, it is a great community in which I have made lifelong friends.”

Across 2022 there were in excess of 15,000 acts of Pilotage undertaken by ABP’s 100 strong team of Pilots aided by several towage companies working on the Humber.

Towage and marine services company, Svitzer, who aided the MV Propel Grace, turned their water jets on to honour Dave’s last VLS movement.

Video credit: ABP