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Meet the Mersey River Pilot responsible for Cunard’s Queen Anne maiden voyage into Liverpool

2 weeks ago

Meet the Mersey River Pilot responsible for Cunard’s Queen Anne maiden voyage into Liverpool

Cunard’s new Queen Anne is set to make her spectacular maiden call at Liverpool in less than a month – and the Mersey river pilot responsible for getting her safely in and out of her spiritual home is preparing for the task.

The 113,000 gt ship is more than 1,000ft long, almost 117ft wide and rises to 14 decks. She carries 3,000 guests and 1,245 crew.

Shortly after sunrise on Monday 3 June she will cross the Mersey Bar and start her approach to Liverpool’s world-famous waterfront where she will be officially Named later in the day.

In command on the bridge will be Queen Anne’s Master, Captain Inger Thorhauge.

Alongside her will be Liverpool Marine Pilot James Smart who will ensure the mighty liner’s safe passage.

Ports throughout the world, and the ships using them, rely on local Pilots for their experience, expertise and knowledge of their waters to oversee arrivals, ship movements and moorings as well as departures.

Queen Anne, set to become the first Cunard Queen to be named at Liverpool, became the fourth ship in Cunard’s current fleet in April and is the second largest Cunarder (behind flagship Queen Mary 2) built in the company’s 184-year history.

The 249th ship to fly the Cunard flag is fitted with a very sophisticated state of the art propulsion system which eases her manoeuverability and handling in port.

For the past two months the Liverpool Pilot has been familiarising himself with her characteristics on the Pilots’ own hi tech simulator located at their riverside headquarters in Birkenhead.

Queen Anne - Cunard
Picture by Christopher Ison.

James Smart explained:

“Cunard supplied the QA data package for us to load onto our simulator. It has given us a terrific opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the ship as we can expect her to be on the Mersey next month,” he adds.

“Any maiden call is, by definition, a new challenge because it is the first time that vessel has been in the port. In the case of Queen Anne, everything is a little more intense because of the profile the new ship already has and the significance of her first arrival at Cunard’s spiritual home,” adds the Pilot.

Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to line vantage points on both sides of the Mersey at Formby, Crosby and New Brighton, whilst the pomp and panache of the Ceremony itself at 4pm is expected to attract huge crowds to Pier Head.

Beyond the banks of the Mersey a global audience will also be able to view highlights from the day.

“On the bridge, our concentration is 100% on the safe handling and movement of the ship, so the fact so many pair of eyes are watching every move we make is immaterial. Planning for this day has been going on for nearly 18 months with constant liaison between ourselves, Port of Liverpool authorities, Cruise Liverpool and, of course Cunard’s own ops team and Captain Inger,” explains the Pilot.

He will board Queen Anne at Belfast, her port of call before Liverpool, and run through the meticulously planned schedule with Captain Inger and her bridge team.

“The plan is very detailed. It must be for such a large vessel, and getting on the simulator has been invaluable in terms of preparation. However, we’re working in a dynamic environment where prevailing conditions can change quickly and adapting to wind speed and direction, tidal range and air pressure is critical at every moment the ship is in port and under way.”

In addition to preparations on the local simulator, the pilot will join Captain Inger in a remote run through the Liverpool plan using one of the world’s most advanced ship simulators operated by Cunard’s parent company Carnival at the Centre for Simulator Maritime Training (CSMART) in the Netherlands.

The Pilot has worked on the Mersey for 17 years and is no stranger to the intense scrutiny the ship will be under having been assigned to Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth for the Three Queens salute to Liverpool in 2015. 

Then, more than 1 million people converged on both sides of the Mersey to see the fleet perform the spectacular “river dance” manoeuvres in salute to Cunard’s 175th anniversary of its first sailing from Liverpool.

“We made maritime history that day for Liverpool, for Cunard and for the Liverpool Pilotage Service. It was an honour then and it will be an honour next month to bring Queen Anne “home” for the first time to be officially Named.”

Find more information on the Cunard website.

Find all the latest Liverpool news here.



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