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HMS Collingwood initiative offers a view from a different bridge

22 June 2017
A new initiative set up by an HMS Collingwood officer to strengthen the ties between the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy has seen its first success.

Lieutenant Daniel Snell, Staff Navigator at FOST MPV Faslane recently spent a week working with the Medway Pilots based in Sheerness in Kent, gaining first-hand experience of the challenges they face navigating one of the busiest waterways in Europe.

One of the first challenges Lt Snell experienced was the difference in manoeuvrability of the merchant vessels compared to the Royal Navy ships he’s more familiar with.

He said, “I was particularly impressed by the skill of the pilots in manoeuvring a number of different vessels through a variety of challenging waterways.

"Their techniques, such as grounding vessels deliberately in order to manoeuvre them onto berths, was very interesting and is not something a Commanding Officer in the Royal Navy would even consider.

"The pilots have a substantial history of navigating merchant vessels so they are well aware of their capabilities and limitations."

It was a pleasure for us to entertain the Royal Navy.

Captain Chris Bordas, Merchant Navy

The tasks Lt Snell undertook ranged from standard transits in and out of the Medway to more challenging navigation under the Kingsferry Bridge and negotiating significant tidal conditions around Chatham and Rochester. He also experienced a wide range of vessels including car carriers, bulk carriers and small coasters.

Captain Chris Bordas, a Medway pilot for 26 years with many additional years of experience as a Master in the Merchant Navy, hosted Lt Snell’s visit. He commented, “It was a pleasure for us to entertain the Royal Navy. It is a great shame that the Royal and Merchant Navies are somewhat distant as we have a great deal to offer each other.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Lieutenant Commander David Carter and offers Royal Navy navigators a chance to gain an insight into navigation aboard Merchant Navy vessels.

He hopes many more Warfare Officers will take advantage of this opportunity and added, “We have a number of UK pilotage authorities keen to support RN Navigator acquaints and this adds a super training opportunity to stand in the shoes of our professional civilian counterparts.

"Industry engagement offers great opportunity to all and the Royal Navy are expanding opportunities such as this for mutual benefit.

"Do enquire to the RN’s Merchant Navy Liaison Officer on email [email protected]."

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