MARINE pilot Don Buckthought has called it a day after more than 30 years in the industry and piloting more than 4000 vessel movements since 2004.

Mr Buckthought was given the traditional maritime farewell last Thursday (7 October) when he piloted his last ship through Port Kembla.

While navigating the 292-metre HL Esperance, Mr Buckthought was sent off with a water display from the tugs that flanked the bulker.

Port Authority of NSW head of operations for Port Kembla and South Coast Peter Ernst said celebrating Mr Buckthought bringing in his last ship is a fitting, but no doubt emotional, way to mark the end of a very long successful career.

“Don is going to be a greatly missed member of our highly skilled marine pilots who are experts in transferring to ships at sea to help them navigate safely into our South Coast ports and Port Kembla,” Mr Ernst said.

“Don’s ship handling skills are superb – and no matter how big the vessel was, how tricky the navigation required – he has a natural ability to place any vessel in the very best and safest position in the waterway during pilotage transit.”

Mr Ernst said Mr Buckthought has also been instrumental in providing training and mentoring to most unrestricted pilots who are now part of the team.

“He is a consummate professional and is always willing to provide the safest outcomes for vessel movements in the port,” Mr Ernst said.

Mr Buckthought started working for the Port Kembla Port Corporation on 3 February 2003. He obtained his Level 1 to 184 metres LOA on 26 February 2003 and obtained final level to 300 metres on 23 March 2003. He was promoted to lead pilot on August 30, 2004, when Captain Rob Choppin retired. Mr Buckthought was also the pilot that berthed the first cruise ship in Port Kembla.

Mr Buckthought’s advice to other marine pilots is to “enjoy it while you can, because it’s over in the blink of an eye”.