In September 1987, I was employed by Ocean Inchcape of Woking.
My first post was at Dubai Petroleum Coy’s Fateh Field relieving permanent staff going on leave. My main duty was as a marine inspector on McDermott’s crane and pipe laying barges and the odd tanker to mono-buoys. After about eight weeks and fieldbreak, I went to Bonny Oil Terminal with OIL and did two long tours there before going back to Fateh Field. This time, I spent less time on McDermott’s barge and more as a mooring master on tankers of up to 300,000 dwt.
When that stint finished, I was selected to go to the Ras Isa Terminal in what was then North Yemen. The Terminal was almost new and involved berthing tankers of up to 308,000 dwt alongside FSO Safer (ex-Esso Japan c407,000 dwt). However, it was a requirement that OIL put new pilots for RAS ISA either on a simulator or ship model course. From 7-10 November 1988, I did the Manned Model Course at Marchwood.
The course was very enjoyable although I was surprised that, if I remember correctly, none of the instructors had pilotage experience. Also, whilst they could scale down the models, they could not do anything about the wind blowing across the site. The wind’s effect on the models was three times its actual force so a 20 knots wind had the effect of a 60 knots wind on the models. It made for some very unusual manoeuvres.
At the end of the course, I was asked if I thought the course had made me a better pilot. I said they were asking the wrong person. When I got to Marchwood I had already piloted well over 4,000 ships in East Africa, Jeddah Islamic Port and Petromin Oil Terminal and then Zueitina in Libya. I spent three enjoyable years at Ras Isa, but then spent my last 18 years at Zueitina putting ships into a mono-buoy, two conventional buoy moorings and an LPG jetty. I finished up as one of two marine superintendents, working on a back to back basis.
As for manned model courses, they possibly do have a use, but for new pilots the only place to learn their profession is on the bridge of a ship with an experienced pilot.