Our pilots play a crucial role in the safe, efficient operation of the Haven Ports, guiding a wide range of commercial vessels into and out of the harbour, and to and from their berths.

Our reputation for handling the world’s largest container ships is such that other harbour authorities have visited to observe and learn about the skills involved.

Highly qualified and experienced, the pilots provide expert navigational advice to ships’ masters, drawing on a detailed knowledge of the estuary, deepwater channels, tides and currents, as well as factoring in weather and taking account of other vessels or any obstacles in the vicinity.

We employ approximately 30 pilots, all of them Master Mariners. They are employed, trained, examined and authorised in compliance with the requirements of the Pilotage Act 1987, Port Marine Safety Code and National Occupational Standards.

The Authority has a long-established pilot training partnership with maritime and coast experts HR Wallingford, and has also recently set up a relationship with Lowestoft College to provide pilot resource management training using the college’s Kongsberg simulator.

Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels over 50 metres in length, except where the master holds a Pilotage Exemption Certificate. Our pilots board and disembark vessels at the Sunk Pilot Station – 16 nautical miles offshore – or, if a vessel is less than 180 metres, the Haven Pilot Station is an option.

The pilots liaise closely with Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) officers, launch crews, towage providers and other services. They are brought to and from the ships by one of four state-of-the-art pilot launches, operated by highly trained crew. Purpose-built by Holyhead Marine, these fuel-efficient 16.5 metre launches have excellent performance qualities, thanks to their deep V-hull to cut through the waves and deal with severe weather conditions.