Letter : Self Employment


As a pilot who is now approaching his 40th year in the profession (May 24th this year) and who will retire at the end of the year I feel it incumbent upon me to express my own personal feelings for the future of our profession. It has long been my belief that self-employment is the ONLY way ahead for pilotage in the UK, this belief being strengthened by my experience of having been employed twice during my time as a pilot with the majority of my career spent as self-employed. My first spell of employment was for a period of 2 years whilst on secondment from my home port Liverpool to ALCOA in Port Kamsar, Republic of Guinea in West Africa and the second period was back home in Liverpool following the 1987 Pilotage Act as an employee of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company. This lasted for a period of 9 years whence we finally negotiated a return to our previous self-employed status.

I can say with my hand on my heart that the 9 years I spent in employment were the unhappiest in my career and which resulted in our Pilot Service reaching a position of rock bottom both in our remuneration and status as professionals. Happily I can report that since our return to self-employment in 1997 our status, remuneration and most of all our relationship with the Harbour Authority and its customers has improved beyond all recognition. I can equally say that the last 9 years in self-employment have been the happiest I have ever spent as a pilot and I believe that this feeling is largely shared by my fellow Liverpool Pilots. Comparisons between ourselves and shore-based personnel are now a thing of the distant past and rightly so. A Pilot is by definition “An independent professional person” who, whilst he is on board a ship, is the servant of the ship-owner (not the ships master as I have seen quoted) and is given the conduct of that vessel by the master. Lord Jauncey in his Judgement in the Cavendish Report following an incident involving a PLA pilot created case law when he stated that the 1987 Pilotage Act did not alter the status of a pilot as an independent professional person whether he be in the employ of the CHA or not.

It is my own personal belief that the 1987 Pilotage Act has seriously undermined the position of pilots in the UK and since the simultaneous dismissal of 136 highly experienced pilots on the number in January 2002 the number of employed pilots in the UK is now well in excess of those that are self-employed. The present government’s policy still remains that they would like to see all UK pilots in the employment of their respective CHAs apparently on the grounds that “they would be more accountable”. My own experience has shown that self employed pilots are no less accountable than their employed counterparts and if anything seem to enjoy a higher level of respect from their own authorities.

In closing I would like to say that those who know me are aware of how passionately I feel about self-employment and I hope that this letter goes some way to explaining why I have vehemently opposed those civil servants who have attempted to implement present government policy and reverse what we have achieved in Liverpool. Their policies are the exact opposite of what I feel should be happening. As a member of the Section Committee of the UKMPA I would like to make it dear that the views I have expressed are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of other members of the committee or of my fellow Liverpool Pilots.

Dave Devey, Liverpool Pilot

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