Wednesday 21st Nov, 2018

Helicopter-borne marine pilots guide first ship into Melbourne

Photo: David Sexton
Photo: David Sexton

NEW marine pilot business, Australian Pilotage Group, has guided its first ship into the Port of Melbourne.

Marine pilots Captain Charles Griffiths and Captain David Ellis were last Friday morning flown to the ro-ro vessel Höegh Trapper by helicopter before being winched onboard.

Captain Griffiths guided the ship through Port Phillip Heads and into port with Captain David Ellis observing.

APG managing director, Captain Stephen Rabie, said the marine pilots boarded the ship some 10 nautical miles off Port Phillip Heads.

“We like to transfer the marine pilots on board early at 10 miles off. This gives them more time to do the master/pilot exchange in detail, and set the ship up for the entrance through the Heads,” Captain Rabie told DCN.

“The flight time from Avalon, winching two pilots onboard and return took 30 minutes.”

APG has two ‘Dauphin’ AS365N2 helicopters that it bought from Westpac Rescue Helicopters in Lismore in northern New South Wales.

Weather was good for the first ship with both pilots on board at 6.48am Friday, the vessel being “all fast” at Webb Dock by 11.15am.

Captain Rabie said the departure also went well with the ship leaving Melbourne at 7am Saturday which had the pilots disembarking at 10.10am and being back at Avalon at 10.25am.

He said the ship did not have to slow down from its speed of 16.3 knots as the marine pilot was collected by Helicopter.

“The winching went very smoothly which is testament to the thorough training that was undertaken,” Captain Rabie said. “The whole thing was ‘uneventful’ in the words of our chief helicopter pilot Captain Stephan D’Hoedt upon returning to base.”

Captain Rabie said they were “absolutely certain that this method of marine pilot transfer is safer than using pilot ladders and, being a faster method of deploying pilots, reduces fatigue”.

“We have a very supportive shipping industry, I would not have embarked on the venture if we did not,” he said. “APG’s primary focus now is on commencing business in a prudent and, most importantly, safe manner”.

“We are now about to embark on a process of training our own marine pilots”.



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