Home HRAcademia ABP welcomes UK’s first Marine Pilotage Apprentices

ABP welcomes UK’s first Marine Pilotage Apprentices

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L-r: Jonathan Sleep; Martin Gough; Tom Donaghy; Kym Hughes and Trainee Coxswain Oliver Lowe aboard pilot launch Humber Jupiter (image courtesy of ABP

L-r: Jonathan Sleep; Martin Gough; Tom Donaghy; Kym Hughes and Trainee Coxswain Oliver Lowe aboard pilot launch Humber Jupiter (image courtesy of ABP

ABP has welcomed three trainees onto the UK’s first ever Marine Pilotage Apprenticeship scheme after the company launched the initiative in October last year.

The scheme, which was written and developed by ABP’s Marine Training Manager Martin Gough, attracted almost 40 applicants from across the country, all keen to build on their existing skills and qualify as a marine pilot.

Martin explains: “This new scheme was developed following the success of our Port Marine Operations Apprenticeship. We have long known there was a need to get young people into the marine industry and developing a Marine Pilotage apprenticeship scheme made perfect sense.

“The traditional route into pilotage, of spending many years at sea usually qualifying as Master Mariners before coming ashore, means the average age of pilots is quite high and that needs to be addressed.

“By developing the apprenticeship scheme to ensure it complies with the requirements of the National Occupational Standards for Marine Pilots and IMO resolution A960 we can reduce the amount of time required to be spent at sea and focus the training on developing the specific skills required by a marine pilot.

“We now have three enthusiastic and very capable people who are looking forward to learning these skills and qualifying as pilots, as well as 13 other young people who are already on our Marine Operations Apprenticeship, all of which bodes well for the future of the industry.”

All applicants were required to have their first-level marine qualification and will join a team of 218 ABP pilots across the company’s 21 ports.

Kym Hughes is from Portsmouth. He completed his cadetship with Carnival UK and reached the rank of 2nd Officer before making the transition to the apprenticeship.

“This course is a great opportunity to get into pilotage, ” said Kym. “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot and had been looking at gaining experience by staying at sea for many more years. This apprenticeship has opened up an alternative path for me allowing me to gain experience which is directly relevant to the job, in preparation for gaining my first authorisation next year.”

Tom Donaghy hails from Northern Ireland and has worked at North Star Shipping, Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL) and most recently, in the Marine Operations department in Dublin Port.

He said: “The apprenticeship scheme is a fantastic opportunity to achieve a career goal of becoming a marine pilot. The scheme so far has been very enjoyable and it has been really interesting to learn how the various departments within ABP Humber interact and are interdependent on each other.

”I know the job will be challenging but I’m looking forward to getting down to South Wales and learning from the experienced team there.’

Jonathan Sleep is from Deal in Kent. He’s also looking forward to benefitting from the experience of ABP’s existing marine teams.

He said: “During my time on board geotechnical research vessels I was given the opportunity to learn and practice ship manoeuvring and ship handling on a variety of vessels. This was always the fun part of the job and enjoying that can only be beneficial to my new chosen career.

“I’m also hoping to use the knowledge of some incredibly experienced pilots and ex mariners to learn as much as possible from them. The chance to learn from colleagues who have 40 years’ experience within the industry will make me a better pilot.”

As well as getting to know ABP as a company, pilotage apprentices will be expected to undertake training in tug and pilot launch familiarisation, man overboard procedures and ship simulator work including bridge/pilot resource management and targeted trips and situations.

At the end of the two-year course apprentices will be required to demonstrate their knowledge and capabilities through a series of final assessments which will include a full act of pilotage within the training district.


  • ABP is the UK’s leading ports operator with 21 ports and other transport related businesses creating a unique national network capable of handling a vast array of cargo.
  • Around one quarter of the UK’s seaborne trade passes through ABP’s Statutory Harbour Areas.
  • ABP contributes £5.6 billion to the UK economy every year and supports 84, 000 jobs. Our current investment programme promises to deliver an extra £1.75 billion for the economy every year.


  • Handled over 1.6 million vehicles in 2014.
  • Generates around one quarter of the UK’s rail freight
  • Has 1.4 million square metres of covered storage

Has 1000 hectares of open storage

  • Handled 94.5m tonnes of cargo in 2014
  • Owns 5000 hectares of port estate
  • Has 87km of quay

Over the next five years, ABP is investing over £650 million in a wide range of major projects across the group.

ABP Humber

The four ports of Grimsby, Immingham, Hull and Goole handle more than 61 million tonnes of cargo between them each year.

Grimsby and Immingham form the UK’s busiest trading gateway and move around 50 million tonnes of cargo per annum.

£130-plus million is currently being invested in the biomass handling terminal in Immingham, in a Humber-wide agreement with Drax Power Ltd that has seen £25 million invested in a biomass handling facility in Hull. The Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal handles sustainable biomass shipments and will create over 100 permanent jobs once complete. The construction phase created 100 employment opportunities.

The Port of Hull handles 10 million tonnes of cargo per annum and is the is the focal point for the development of the UK’s largest offshore wind turbine manufacturing, construction, assembly, and service facility, which will be located on the Port’s Alexandra Dock. This new facility represents a £310 million investment and will create up to 1000 direct jobs.

The Grimsby River Terminal represents an investment of £26 million and allows large car-carrying ships to berth outside the Port’s lock system. This development confirms the Port’s position as the UK’s leading automotive handling facility.

More than the equivalent of 1million teus (twenty foot equivalent unit) of unitised trade is shipped through ABP Humber ports.

Goole is situated 50 miles upriver and is the UK’s premier inland port. It handles over one million tonnes of cargo annually.


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