6 May 2013

Now for something completely different.......

No it's not Porsches,cats,historic motor sport,Paris,France or even Leicas it's what I did last Friday.
Thanks to Craig,the owner of the superb 911S featured recently on the blog I went to sea.
Craig is a pilot with the Newcastle Port Authority.
For the benefit of overseas readers Newcastle is a major city about 160 kms north of Sydney in NSW Australia.It is one of the biggest ports in the world for shipping coal which is mined from mines in the Hunter Valley.Newcastle Harbour is at the mouth of the Hunter River.
The pilots are responsible for piloting ships in and out of Newcastle Harbour and it is a 24/7 activity involving 22 pilots and there are literally dozens of ships drifting off the coast waiting to get into the coal loading berths.As soon as they are loaded they vacate the berth.
My day started with safety briefings and then a trip across the harbour in one of the pilot launches to the helicopter facility.Helicopters are used, weather permitting, to drop of and pick up the pilots or transport them between outgoing and incoming ships.When the weather conditions are too bad the pilot transfers are done by boat.
The pilot launch is pretty small and I certainly would not want to be taken out of the harbour into a heavy swell and then face climbing up a rope ladder dangling over the side of a ship on a stormy night when the helicopter cannot fly.
From the launch it was into the helicopter and a short flight out to the waiting coal carrier.It was a beautiful day and there was a superb view of the city of Newcastle as we flew up the harbour.A quick circle of the ship,the Navros Hope, and then down onto the helipad -actually one of the hatches of the ship.Remove safety harness and headset,check camera,open door,keep head down to avoid decapatation by rotor blades and step rapidly onto float and then onto hatch.It's a very rapid exit -the helicopter does not hang around-and then up a few very steep flights of stairs onto the bridge.We had to wait for an outgoing vessel from the berth to clear the harbour entrance and then the ship was piloted in through the narrow entrancel and then up the harbour into the coal terminal basin then swung around 180º and manouvered into position alongside the coal loader.It sounds easy but the ship is big and the channel is narrow.
I guess my overwhelming impression was of total professionalism in every facet of the operation-the ship and its crew -scrubbed and really tidy--no clues to its cargo-the pilot launch and the helicopter shuttle and the piloting.
You see so much trivial nonsense presented as 'real life' nowadays that it is easy to forget that in the real world gigantic industries are working smoothly everyday and driving the economy without any fuss or visibility.
It was a unique experienceAll Leica X1 photos.
Pilot Craig.Yes collar and tie are mandatory for the pilots-not for me fortunately.
Pilot launch.

Shuttle helicopter .A McDonnell Douglas MD-500.

Nobbys Head and Beach

The ship-Navros Hope bulk coal carrier-Panamanian registered,crew Ukranian and Filipino.Takes coal from Newcastle to Japan.

A quick lap of the ship before touch down

From the deck after a quick exit

Stockton Beach from the ship's bridge

The wheelhouse.Craig directing,captain watching

Tools of the trade.

Navigation officer

The Captain

Entrance to Newcastle Harbour.Tug coming alongside to attach lines

Pilot,helmsman and the navigation officer controlling the engines

The coal loading terminal basin from the wheelhouse.The berth is on the left behind the blue ship

Captain Yatsenko.


  1. What a day you had, John! Excellent pictures from the Leica. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Wonderful photo of ship sailing into Newcastle Harbour, lovely colours and framing. S