This woman has one of the hardest jobs on the Humber

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 9 Jan 2018

This video gives a glimpse of what it is like to be a pilot launch coxswain for ABP.

And it might be tougher than you think.

The Humber Estuary is one of the most difficult waterways to navigate due to constant sand bank shifts and strong tides.

ABP provides a professional pilotage service to ensure vessels are guided safely through. Any vessel more than 60 metres in length requires a Pilot or PEC (Pilotage Exemption Certificate) holder.

There are three pilot launch vessels based in Grimsby which operate on the Humber at any one time to take the pilot to the vessel that needs navigating.

The 24/7, 365-day operation means pilots have to board vessels in all weather conditions and at any time of day.

This means pilots have to be physically fit to climb the ladder onto the vessel, which can be difficult in three-meter swells, as shown in the video above.

ABP Humber employs 119 pilots, with trainees having to go through six months of rigorous training. Depending on their years of experience, pilots are ranked to handle various sizes of vessels starting from third-class pilot to VLS (very large ship) pilot.

Vital in the deployment of the launch vessels are the 17 coxswains and 16 deckhands that use their local knowledge and boat handling skills to ensure that the pilots board and land all the vessels safely.

ABP Humber employs 1,050 people directly (Image: Grazia Louise Photography 2017)

Sue Hickson-Marsay is a pilot launch coxswain and explains what a typical day can be like.

"I would be called up by the VTS by the tower and they will tell me what the job is going to be for my launch," she said.

"The pilots will come down onto the vessel. I could have one pilot on board or I could have up to eight pilots on board, maybe going right out to the Humber light float, maybe just going past the point end.

"It all depends on the conditions and it all depends on the size of the vessel as well."

And the weather can hugely impact her job. "It can be quite demanding," Sue said.

"Especially in adverse weather conditions. We work in all weather conditions, including dense fog.

ABP Humber employs 119 pilots (Image: Karl Andre Photography Ltd 2015)

"When it’s dense fog, you really need to know what you are doing. You need to be able to use the equipment that is available to you and you have to be really aware of everything that is going on in the river."

But she has fun doing it to too.

"There is a good rapport a lot of the time with the pilots," she said. "I enjoy doing the job, handling the pilot launch and working on boats."

Last year, ABPs pilots completed 17,000 acts of pilotage on the Humber in what is one of the UKs busiest waterways. The largest vessel received last year was more than 292 meters in length and in excess of 180,000 deadweight tonnes.

ABP Humber Estuary Services is the Statuary and Competent Harbour Authority for the Humber and it ensures the safety and efficiency of the waterway.

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