Pilot Training: Letter from T. Purvis

Reading an article in the New Zealand Pilot magazine ,it was raising the point of where the next generation of NZ pilots would come from.Apparently the days of the ‘Union’ company have long gone and the NZ merchant navy is greatly depleted,having started my pilotage career as a Tyne Pilot apprentice,may be this is the answer??What has happened in New Zealand may not be far off  as a problem in the UK.so this could be a  future method of creating pilots without relying on poaching young men from our also depleted merchant navy.Recent comments in the press as a reaction to GCSE results with reference to ‘dumbing down'(my daughter marks GCSE maths papers and having acted as a checker I can assure you the standard of papers is embarrasingly low)the emphasis is now on ‘vocational avenues’ rather than everyone attending university and getting hons degrees in hairdressing!My apprenticeship consisted of acting as crew of the pilot cutters eventually becoming a skipper with all the relevant responsibilities,we were als required to trip at least weekly with the working pilots.So after 40/50 trips a year x 5 you had a lot of experience.We also attended the South Shields Marine school onb a regular basis.So bringing that up to date,boat handling,tripping and simulator training at marine colleges seems to be a way forward.An incentive for the ports would be cheap labour for the cutters.I don’t know whether it is still the case but the Delaware pilot service was 5 year apprenticeship then straight into piloting,although the look on the ‘old man’s face’ when a pilot in his early 20s came to the bridge of a loaded 50,000t tanker!!!!.

Another item in this mag. mentioned that Humber ports was intending to get rid of 12 pilots.I find this rather ironic when the Humber did what it did and iradicated a whole service which was self-employed . Those of us who were self-employed tried in vain to point out to pilotage authorities that in times of downturn and the Tyne is suffering due to reduction in Nissan car traffic then ‘no ships means no pay’when your self employed(rather obvious I know)So the new port pilots on the Tyne are quite happy as they are working much less for same pay !!! Maybe my generation were lucky although having to work in Jeddah during the miner’s strike of 83’84 to pay the morgage wasn’t a pleasant experience.

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