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08/10/2021 02:53 PM

Port Kembla Marine Pilot retires more than 30 years on deck

After a maritime career spanning more than 30 years, Port Authority of NSW retiring Marine Pilot Don Buckthought and Illawarra local was given a traditional maritime farewell on Thursday 7 October when he piloted his last ship through Port Kembla.

While navigating the 292m HL Esperance, Don was sent off with a spectacular water display and flanked by tugboats to celebrate his many years working on the water in a heart-warming ceremony wishing the devoted Australian seafarer well for his next voyage.

Port Authority of NSW Head of Operations for Port Kembla & South Coast, Peter Ernst said Don has piloted over 4000 vessel movements since 2004 so celebrating him 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!

“He was also instrumental in providing great training and mentoring to most unrestricted pilots who are now part of our team.

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

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

Don shared the same sentiment about the Port Kembla team saying “We’re only small down here, so it’s like a family.” His advice to other marine pilots is to “enjoy it while you can, because it’s over in the blink of an eye."