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New trainee pilots to support Thames pilotage demand

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has welcomed its latest intake of trainee pilots to meet growing demand for pilotage services in the UK’s biggest port.

The new recruits join a team of over 100 pilots, providing statutory pilotage to vessels visiting the tidal Thames, day and night.

In 2021, the PLA’s sea pilotage team delivered a 98.8 per cent service record to customers, in their busiest ever year, during which they guided almost 11,000 vessels, along the river and estuary, as trade recovered, following the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The four new trainee pilots have now embarked on a comprehensive training programme, to equip them with the skills and knowledge to tackle the specific challenges of navigating the Thames.

  • Niall Egan began his seafaring career as a Trinity House cadet in 2010. After qualifying, he worked with Arklow shipping for a short time, before moving to the cruise industry, sailing worldwide for a decade.
  • After starting his career with P&O Ferries in 2007, Tom Markram left the ferry industry to gain more deep-sea experience, joining Seabourn Cruise Lines, sailing worldwide. He then returned to the ferry industry, working his way through the ranks to become staff captain.
  • Richard Peake also began his sea-going career joining Trinity House as a cadet. Since qualifying, he has worked on passenger vessels for both Carnival UK and Saga Cruises, progressing to serve as staff captain.
  • Starting his career as a cadet at Holland America Line, Chris Seaman qualified in 2012 and continued to sail with them around the world for eight years. He then spent a short time working for Scotline as chief officer, learning lots about cargo handlings and gaining experience of being onboard small coaster vessels.

PLA pilots board vessels in all weathers and at all hours, including container ships, bulk carriers, dredgers and car carriers. The vessels carry everything from food to fuel, gravel for construction to the latest laptops. Guiding them to and from their berths of the river demands a high level of specialised training and safety awareness.

Bob Baker, PLA chief harbour master said: “As demand on the river is on the up, and to backfill retiring pilots, increasing our pilotage team is key to delivering a reliable service to customers.”