23/02/2018 12:00 AM
Meet the marine pilot: Michael Kelly, Sydney Harbour
Michael Kelly is one of over 50 marine pilots at Port Authority of New South Wales. Here's Michael on his role of heading out to sea to help the largest ships navigate their way safely into busy Sydney Harbour and Port Botany.
Image: Port Authority pilot Michael Kelly (pictured left) likes to support a ship's crew when he can by buying them items such as phone cards so they can call home.
How long have you been in the industry?
I left school in 1991 and went straight to sea, so it has been 26 years!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love ships so it’s a match made in heaven. I enjoy getting on a ship and meeting the Captain and crew, most who you get to know well. Many of them spend eight months on board at a time and they may call into Sydney every three weeks. I personally like to support the crew, having been at sea myself, so I tell them about the Mission to Seafarers centre in the city and give them the bus timetable, I will often buy the crew phone cards so they can call home.
What are the challenges you face in your role?
The biggest challenge is getting on and off the ships safely in big swells. Winter is particularly difficult in 40-knot winds and swells up to eight metres.
What changes have you seen in your role as a pilot?
The ships are getting bigger, with many container ships now over 300 metres long, this makes piloting more challenging as we have less room between ships at the quay line
Sydney Harbour is becoming busier with small craft and this can prove challenging when navigating a ship through the harbour on a busy day.
With ships becoming larger and technology changing, how do you keep on top of this?
We complete simulator training in Brisbane every two years for three days. We simulate engine failures, steering failures, tugs breaking their tow lines and often in high winds when we are working at the limits. Lately, we have been focussing on large container and cruise ships as these are the types of vessels we are seeing an increase in our ports, and the more practice, the more confident we become.
Pilots also carry units called Portable Pilot Units (PPU) which is an electronic chart displayed on our ipads. We connect the PPU to the ships Automatic Identification Unit which has the ships position, course speed and direction. The information is transmitted by Wi-Fi to our ipads and has the chart of the port. It is handy to see the position of the tugs and other ships and helps us berthing ships like the 300-metre container ships.