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MOD pilot retires after 43 years of service

2 February 2017
Long-serving Ministry of Defence maritime pilot Jeff Walters has retired after 43 years service including safely guiding thousands of warships and submarines in and out of Plymouth waters.

Jeff Walters received a certicate from Commodore Ian Shipperley, Commander Devonport Naval Base, at a ceremony to show the appreciation of the Royal Navy for keeping its ships safe using the Port of Plymouth and Devonport Docks.

Cdre Shipperley said: “I would like to take this opportunity as you leave the Ministry Of Defence to thank you for the sterling and valued service you have given the department over the past 43 years.

“I am also very appreciative of all the work you have done at Devonport Naval Base, conducting in excess of 5,000 individual acts of pilotage without incident; and your contribution as tug master and pilot to the system used to manoeuvre Vanguard class submarines, a system that continues to be use for the Devonport entry and exit.’’

He praised Jeff for his ‘commanding authority’ within the maritime environment which has deservedly earned respect from commanding officers and captains across the spectrum of UK and foreign shipping: “I know that you are extremely proud of the Admiralty Pilotage service and the professional standard it stands for and you should take considerable individual credit for your contribution in creating that reputation over your career.’’

There’s a great camaraderie in the the pilotage service and the main reward is getting a ship and the crew safely into port and alongside in difficult conditions of tide and wind within the complex coastline of the Port of Plymouth

Jeff Walters

Jeff said he’d miss the adrenalin rush of the work and the job satisfaction: “There’s a great camaraderie in the the pilotage service and the main reward is getting a ship and the crew safely into port and alongside in difficult conditions of tide and wind within the complex coastline of the Port of Plymouth.

"We can only advise the captain of any vessel, but most of the time they respect our advice and we have good relations with them which helps everyone.

"The most difficult is probably piloting Vanguard Class of Submarines with their huge underwater profile in relation to the relatively shallow waters that make up the Dockyard Port of Plymouth.

"We all have to train specially for those moves.’’

Jeff joined  the Ministry Of Defence in 1974 at Devonport as a junior seaman with interesting and challenging roles following.

He quickly worked his way up through the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) ranks, to achieve his ‘mates’ qualification in 1980 from Plymouth Maritime College enabling him to serve on various RMAS vessels.

From 1983 – 1987 he was appointed officer in charge of Falmouth RMAS base - responsible for managing the fleet of fleet tenders and their crews operating out of Falmouth.

He returned to Plymouth in 1987 to fill the post of Boat Officer and gained his masters qualification from Cardiff Maritime College in 1986 in order to serve as mate/master on various tugs. From 1992  to 1994 he took up the appointment  as Master of  torpedo recovery vessel RMAS Tormentor working around the UK coast and Channel Islands before returning to the harbour tug fleet as Master.

Cdre Shipperley said: “It was during these years that your outstanding natural ability for ship handling was identified.’’

He subsequently trained, and qualified as a ‘Limited Ships Pilot’ and achieved the challenging ‘Admiralty Pilot All Ships’ qualification in 1995 in order to assist ships in entering the often challenging waters of Plymouth.

In retirement he intends to make good use of his newly-purchased and restored fishing boat.

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