Dear Editor.

In light of the usual doom and gloom we encounter regularly as part of our job lot as a pilot I would like, on behalf of Belfast Pilots, to present an update on a good news story. It is our first anniversary of the changeover to self-employment on the first of December and I am glad to report it has been a huge success for all involved. One of the often quoted, but rarely achieved win-win situations, for all those concerned. The transition from employees to self-employment has been smooth and much hailed by port users and management alike. The new Pilot House has been transformed into a homely but efficient office come staging post. Our first acquisition, i.e. the plaque dedicated to the efforts of Dave Devey (Liverpool Pilots) and the T&G, is polished every day and serves to remind all of tougher times past and obstacles overcome. As Dave often quoted, there was indeed a radical change in the perception of us as a body within the port. We are now on first name terms with the senior management and meet regularly to update, chat and exchange ideas regarding shared problems we encounter. Our opinions are requested, from source, and we are able to represent ourselves in a professional and positive manner. We are considered a part of the port “family” and are even invited to the Harbour Christmas Ball as welcome friends. Unfortunately the Harbour Master has recently moved on to pursue further opportunities but we wish him well in his endeavours.This changed perception has led others within the organisation to realise we are a valuable asset. The Public Relations officer is now a valued friend and has utilised our broad pool of expertise for various publicity promotions for the port. Captain Billy Esler and I recently took one hundred, cross community, school children on a boat tour to highlight the good work being carried out within the Harbour.

Captain Billy Esler with the school group

We have now been asked to care for our first “career week” youngster to shed light on the marine world and highlight the various career prospects available in the Harbour and beyond. On our own behalf we have actively investigated this “new world” of possible opportunities. Approaches recently resulted in our conducting a three day seminar for senior international safety executives. This was our first foray into the field of education and training. Suffice to say those involved shone and the whole adventure was a huge success. We hope to follow up shortly with similar, and more frequent, events. After years of self depreciation it is now becoming evident that we have under estimated ourselves and with the dawning realisation of our worth comes pride and the confidence to approach new ventures without apprehension but with renewed assurance. This is now a successful and most importantly a “happy” Pilotage service. However we can also appreciate the difficulties some of our colleagues are undergoing elsewhere. We understand the frustration and despair felt by those in our profession currently undergoing hard times. We are in communication with some of those involved and are happy to advise and assist as required. We are not experts but we can empathise and sometimes even that means a lot. I cannot say that self-employment is the be-all and end-all of all Pilotage problems but I look around now and see how we were, and how we are now. We are proud of our current standing and will remain forever grateful to the UKMPA, the T&G and the newly-wed Dave Devey, whose wedding we were delighted to attend.

Best wishes to all.

Captain William Magee

Chairman Belfast Lough Pilotage Services Ltd.


Viola Wiggins
October 17th, 2015 at 21:41

Dear Sir,
My cousin Edwin Clarke’s Grandfather, Mr McAlpine, was a Pilot on Belfast Lough in the late 1920s, has a Group Photograph of Pilot Masters taken in about 1926, on a Pilot Boat. It is thought the occasion was a recording of the last Pilot Boat of it’s kind, on the Lough.
Edwin has managed to obtain names for some of the people photographed, and would like to research the families and offer copies of the photograph to relatives.
We have no idea if historical records of Pilots exist, or where they might be archived.
Public Records Office, Belfast has been searched without success.
Any assistance you can provide would be very much Appreciated by myself and Edwin, who are both in our 80s.
Thanking you in appreciation,
I remain,
Yours Truly
Viola M A Wiggins


Leave a Reply

UK Maritime Pilots' Association
European Maritime Pilots' Association
Internation Pilots' Association SITE SPONSORS
Navicom Dynamics
OMC International