Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

MOD Admiralty pilot retires

14 February 2017
A ship pilot who has guided the largest submarines in the Royal Navy safely into Plymouth has retired after 45 years

Ray Preston, a Ministry of Defence Admiralty Pilot, has been presented with a retirement certificate and thanked by Naval Base Commander Commodore Ian Shipperley at a ceremony in Devonport Naval Base.

He has conducted in excess of 5,000 individual acts of pilotage, standing on ship’s bridges with their captains.

Among the bigger jobs were piloting the huge Vanguard Class submarines and aircraft carriers into the constrained and complex waters of the Port of Plymouth with tide winds and sometimes foreign languages compounding the difficulties – earning the respect of captains from many navies. 

I will miss the camaraderie of the pilotage service and interaction with ship’s crews from many navies.

Ray Preston

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 45 years.

 “I am also very appreciative of all the work you have done at Devonport Naval Base as tug master/pilot, which includes your contribution to the Vanguard class submarines Barrow exit and the first Devonport entry where you were appointed as the shadow to the chief pilot for what was an extremely high profiled evolution. 

“Your strength is in the respect you quickly demand from bridge teams while maintaining a friendly approach, always ready to support and pass on your impressive pilotage skills. 

“You are extremely proud of the Admiralty Pilotage service and the professional standard it stands for and should take considerable individual credit for your contribution in creating that reputation over your career.’’

Ray said: “I will miss the camaraderie of the pilotage service and interaction with ship’s crews from many navies.

“And professional pride of overcoming the challenges of bringing in safely large vessels with  nine or ten metres draughts in shallow tidal waters with tricky weather conditions. 

“The largest ship I brought in was the carrier Lusty (former HMS Illustrious) and the hardest are the nuclear submarines with only ten metres water under her. Now I’m looking forward to taking things easier.’’

After joining the Ministry Of Defence in 1971 as a boy seaman Ray’s career he has travelled widely and undertaken a number of interesting and challenging roles.

He was one of the last who came into Devonport as a boy seaman aged 16, effectively learning the ropes on a wide range of specialist former Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) vessels and then progressing through the grades before achieving ‘Masters Certificate of Competency’.

After qualifying as ‘Mate’ and he gained his your  Masters qualification in 1991 and used his professional maritime qualifications together with his love of ship-handling to focus on achieving Admiralty Pilotage qualifications, first the ‘limited ships pilot in 1995 and then ultimately the demanding ‘all ships’ qualification in 1997.

One of his first appointments as mate was to RMAS Newton which served in the Arctic Circle for the first time.

Ray successfully navigated the ship through the ice fields and associated only to find out some years later after a Lloyds inspection that the ships hull was never designed for working in ice and must never be appointed such tasks again!  

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.