Other Businesses

ABP Property

Our property division brings together an unrivalled land bank spanning 21 multi-modal locations around the country, with 960 hectares of port-based development land.


Drawing on 60 years of experience, ABP Marine Environmental Research (ABPmer) provides specialist marine environmental research and consultancy services.

UK Dredging

UK Dredging (UKD) operates the largest British-owned dredging fleet and specialises in the provision of reliable and cost effective port maintenance dredging services.

Humber Pilot, Joel Robinson, shares with us what’s involved with becoming a Humber Pilot.

The Humber Estuary plays a significant role as a gateway to trade, and the role of the Humber Pilot to navigate vessels safely to their destination is career like no other, servicing more than 150 berths at 30 destinations across the Humber, Trent and Ouse.

Here Humber Pilot, Joel Robinson, shares with us his journey to becoming a Humber Pilot and what he loves about his unique role on the Humber.

“I grew up in Grimsby with many of my family working on the Humber. My grandfather spent his entire working life on the dredgers for UKD, my father worked for Svitzer and my mum was a Royal Naval Reservist. Preceding that my Great Uncles worked on the trawlers. During the Second World War they, along with many others, became Skipper Lieutenants after their trawlers were requisitioned to support the Royal Navy, their vessels being used to sweep for mines working out of the Humber. Growing up I decided early on that I would like to pursue seafaring career.

At 19 I began a deck officer cadetship on containerships and product tankers with MAERSK where I learnt the basics and travelled the world. After I qualified with Maersk I moved to their product tanker fleet and worked the MOD charter which supplied Royal Air Force bases in the Ascension Islands.

I left the Merchant Navy, temporarily, for a role in the offshore energy industry, working West of Shetland and in the North Sea on an FPSO for around 5 years.

The specialist vessel took oil and gas from subsea well risers, processed and then stored it within the FPSO hull before discharging the crude oil to regular shuttle tankers. The shuttle tankers would then take the cargo to the Port of Rotterdam and various oil terminals, including Tetney Monobouy on the Humber. It was an interesting job that I thoroughly enjoyed, I learnt a lot and those skills helped to prepare me for returning to the Humber.

After joining the oil and gas industry with my ticket and tanker background, I had not realised that I would not be able to pursue license progression whilst working on an FPSO. I had always had an interest to return to the Humber, working on my home river, and when I saw the advert for the Marine Pilot Apprenticeship, I was keen to find out more about the opportunity. At this stage I had around 10 years of industry experience, so whilst the scheme is referred to as an ‘apprenticeship,’ ABP is targeting candidates who have already got marine experience.

I completed ABP’s Marine Pilot Apprentice scheme in September 2023 and I've been an authorised pilot for the last few months now. You will hear other Marine Pilots say that it’s a very satisfying job and I completely agree. The challenges presented to us by the tidal ranges, weather and waterways along with the variety of tasks required to navigate vessels safely requires skill, local knowledge and great teamwork. I’m glad I made the decision to complete the Marine Pilot Apprenticeship and become a Pilot. As a class 3 pilot I board a variety of vessels up to 10,000 tonnes, such as cargo ships, product tankers, gas tankers, survey vessels. I was even on a fishing trawler the other week out of Grimsby!

One aspect of the role I find interesting is meeting and working with crews and Captains from all over the world. As well as being able to navigate and manoeuvre a ship, you also must be able to manage a bridge team effectively and adapt to various cultural differences.

ABP’s Marine Pilot Apprentice scheme is open to candidates that have a Deck Officer of the Watch licence in the Merchant Navy along with sufficient marine background and experience.

The apprenticeship takes up to two years to complete and once enrolled you are issued with a training matrix which identifies the various subcomponents that you have to complete.

A valuable part of the training is to gain knowledge of the overall operation on the Humber, which includes spending time with the data centre, the Assistant Dock Masters at ABP Ports of Grimsby, Immingham, Hull, and Goole, and learning from the Hydrography department by attending a surveying trip on the river.

Running alongside this is shadowing authorised Humber Pilots on various jobs. Initially you spend time observing, simply learning the district and the basics. Over time you slowly get involved with the manoeuvring of the vessels with support and supervision.

We also complete simulated training at the Modal facility in Immingham. The simulator is a useful training tool that allows you to focus on a particular area or manoeuvre that you've seen on the river.

As a Marine Pilot apprentice, you are also paired up with a mentor, an experienced Humber Pilot who will support you across your apprenticeship picking out specific jobs that you will gain valuable experience from. The one-to-one support provided by the mentors is invaluable and really helps to give your career a sense of direction.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Marine Pilot Apprentice and the last few months as a qualified Humber Pilot has been fantastic. I’m still building on my knowledge and experience of the district. The Humber keeps you on your toes and even surprises the most experienced of Pilots so it’s certainly a job in which you never stop learning.”