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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
David Laister

Port duo call time on nearly 100 years of service on the Humber

Two port stalwarts have retired from their roles after clocking up almost 100 years on the Humber.

Ships agency manager Roy Kersey and very large ships pilot Dave Hunter have put in 48 years and 47 years respectively for employers DFDS and ABP.

Roy had become the longest serving UK employee, for the former, a feat unlikely to be replicated. He began his career at the age of 15 with John Sutcliffe and Sons in Grimsby in 1975 who were agents for DFDS. When DFDS opened its own office in the town they asked him to come on board, and when the company moved to its Immingham site in 1995 he was instrumental in the transfer of operations.

Read more: £1.5m investment to speed up Immingham Container Terminal operations

Roy said: “Some of the highlights in my career have been the amount of new DFDS vessels I have seen come and go, especially the Dana Maxima which I saw arrive in Grimsby in 1978 which was the replacement for the MV Hero that sadly sank in November 1977.

“I still remember with fond memories also all the masters and crews of the vessels of which some I could call friends and have also since retired. I have met some amazing people during my time including Mel Winn who was my mentor during my first days and had a huge influence on my career.”

Roy, who was born and bred in Grimsby, and is a keen Grimsby Town fan, added: “Shipping has changed with the onset of technology, at the start everything was done by telephone or telex. If you needed to communicate with the crew on board a ship you had to put a phone request through Blavand Radio in northern Denmark who would connect you to the ship, eventually!”

Emma Leam-Saville, director of border operations at DFDS Seaways, said: “After a phenomenal 48 years of service to DFDS, Roy has decided to hang up his tide tables and retire.

Roy Kersey, ships agency manager at DFDS, who has retired. (DFDS Seaways / Gravity PR)

“Roy finishes his career leading the vessel and port services team which amongst other tasks, coordinates the berthing of the vessels in Immingham. Roy has supported many of our vessels’ officers through their Humber pilotage exams to the point that it is often joked he could take the exam himself. Roy’s knowledge of the vessels and the river Humber is vast, in the time that Roy has been with DFDS he has dealt with more than 40 vessels operating on DFDS routes through Immingham and Grimsby.

“It is fair to say that this is a one off and we are unlikely to see a 48-year career with DFDS in the UK many times in the future. In fact Roy is only one of a handful of individuals across the DFDS global network to have reached such a milestone.

“We would like to thank Roy for his long service and dedication and wish him all the best for his well-earned retirement.”

A year behind, Mr Hunter closed his career at Immingham, bringing the 200m MV Propel Grace onto its berth at the Humber International Terminal.

He had originally wanted to become a draughtsman or architect, but spotted an article in a careers magazine about the role, sparking interest in what would be an incredible career.

Dave said: “The job really jumped out at me. I had never heard of a river pilot, and it sounded really good, so I made some enquiries. I had never been to sea, neither had my father, but later I discovered that my great, great, great, great grandfather had been a pilot on the Tyne. I was able to start an apprenticeship in 1964 and haven’t looked back since.”

Following time on the water and working through the necessary experience and qualifications, he became a Class One Humber pilot in 1980, and 12 years later he qualified as a Very Large Ships’ pilot, for those over 40,000 tonnes.

“I have loved working with the very large ships,” he said. “Being a Humber pilot has been a wonderful career. Without doubt the Humber Estuary is one of the hardest to navigate in the UK, but the feeling that you get from completing a job really well is like no other. It is a challenging job, but when everything goes right you feel 10 ft high."

Dave Hunter, and inset, watching the water cannon spray from the suporting tug in recognition of his service. (ABP)

Across his 47 years Dave estimates he has completed around 200 vessel movements a year - almost 100,000 in a career.

The Humber Estuary is the largest harbour district in the UK and the pilotage area stretches from the Spurn Light Float through the Humber Estuary up the River Ouse to Goole and up the River Trent to Gainsborough.

Dave added: “Over the years I have worked with hundreds of apprentices and trainees. There is a lot of support for those working towards becoming a Humber pilot, it is a great community in which I have made lifelong friends."

Towage and marine services company, Svitzer, who aided the MV Propel Grace, turned their water jets on to honour his final VLS movement.

Simon Bird, ABP’s Humber director, said: “I would like to personally thank Dave for his incredible service to the Humber. Dave, and marine pilots here and around the world, carry out a vital service that supports our everyday lives.

“Thanks to the considerable experience and expertise, we can all access the commodities to build our homes, keep our lights and heating on, stock our retail sector and bring in medicines for our hospitals and pharmacies. The work pilots carry out goes mostly unnoticed by members of the public but is key to keeping Britain trading.”

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