Salt water runs deep in veins of Esperance marine pilot

by Carwyn Monck - published on 14 February 2024 0 -

Photo: Callum MacAdie works as a marine pilot at the Port of Esperance. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Original article and courtesy by "The West Australian"

Experiences from Australia

In the maritime industry, captains are usually nicknamed “the old man”.

But fourth-generation mariner Callum MacAdie broke that mould when he became a captain in his 20s.

The 30-year-old ocean lover who once considered himself a “black sheep” now holds his dream job as a marine pilot at the Port of Esperance.

Managed by Southern Ports, it is the deepest port in southern Australia and provides a vital trade hub, welcoming more than 220 vessels with more than 13 million tonnes of trade passing though each year.

No two days are the same for a marine pilot in a busy port such as Esperance, but Mr MacAdie wouldn’t have it any other way.

The role helps protect local and State infrastructure, and often involves overcoming language barriers when taking conduct of a ship and working with crews from across the world to bring it safely in or out of port.

He likens the job to that of an airline pilot — regularly keeping up the simulation training, being constantly ready for any circumstances and conditions, and staying calm under pressure.

“As the only southern deep-water port, the vessels coming into Esperance are incredibly diverse — from a 300-metre long Newcastlemax loaded with iron ore, and cargo ships that fit up to 8533 20-foot containers, to a range of specialty and naval vessels,” Mr MacAdie said.

“And in a regional port, it’s not just piloting.

“You’re involved in a range of functions including liaising with ships’ agents, having input into operations, advising stevedoring firms, dealing with local government, transport surveys, monitoring assets — there’s a range of different roles that combine for a marine pilot.”

Mr MacAdie followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father who all headed to sea in their teens and built impressive careers which took them across the world.

“My great-grandfather, Thomas, was a captain on the sailing vessel Loch Garry which travelled between Scotland and Australia, and he was later a stevedore and wharf supervisor at Port Phillip in Victoria,” he said.

“My grandfather was with BHP shipping, survived working the Pacific run during World War II, including three torpedo attacks — and was later a respected Port Phillip sea pilot.

“Dad would eventually follow in those pilot footsteps in Darwin and Fremantle.

“Reading my grandfather’s memoirs was inspiring. I idolised him — even though we didn’t see him that often.

“My dad has been, and is, my best mate. I have a huge amount of respect, and always will, for both of them.”
Callum's great grandfather Captain Thomas Fergus MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum's great grandfather Captain Thomas Fergus MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum's great grandfather Captain Thomas Fergus MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum's great grandfather Captain Thomas Fergus MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Mr MacAdie developed a love affair with the sea from a young age, in the days when families often accompanied senior merchant navy officers on some of the shorter trips.

Devonport in Tasmania was home at the time so for Mr MacAdie, that meant regular trips across the Bass Strait.

Then later on, growing up in Fremantle, he spent his time closer to shore but life still revolved around the sea with fishing, surfing, swimming and sailing regular recreational activities for him and his siblings.

“I have an older sister and younger brother and we were all water babies,” Mr MacAdie said.

“My sister’s a marine scientist and was a State swimmer and netballer at school.

“My brother, who seemed to be good at everything he touched, was great at all sports as well as school.

“He now runs a successful business after some years working at Shell as an engineer.”

He may now lay claim to impressive career achievements, but Mr MacAdie gave both his parents Hamish and Karen — who met when she was a providore for TT line — plenty of worries along the way.

Mr MacAdie admitted he “hated school” growing up and considered himself the “black sheep” of his family.

“I got into a fair bit of trouble at school,” he said.

“I have a very strong sense of how unhappy I was there.

“I used to ride my bike to the beach, hide my board in the dunes and skip class to head back to the beach and sit in the water all day ... I’d watch the ships go in and out of the channel ... and be so elated at the thought that my dad was driving those ships in and out every day.

“The day I left school was right up there (along with marrying his wife, Brittany, in 2022) with the happiest day of my life.”

Despite those rebellious tendencies during his school days, Mr MacAdie was never afraid of hard work, and was determined to get work where he could on a ship.

While his dad’s name and reputation may have opened some doors, it was up to him to justify the gamble on a young worker.

“I did work experience anywhere I could — Rotto ferries, Svitzer, Harbour Services — just clocking up sea time,” he said.

“But as a 15-year-old, I had to prove I was working or studying full-time and it was hard to get permanent work.

“I ended up at South Metro TAFE, picking up a Certificate 2 or 3 in Maritime Operations and my STCW 95 (Certificate of Safety Training) and started to pursue work all over Australia.

“Eventually I picked up work on a small tanker in Fremantle and, later on, an offshore vessel working near Timor where we were decommissioning a rig that had caught fire.

“I’d just turned 16 and it was my first trip away.”

Mr MacAdie wanted to be a captain like his dad.

So he went to college in Fremantle where he was lucky to have a mentor as he worked his way into a marine cadetship, and then put in the long years of hard work to become a captain — and then still more hard yards to become a marine pilot.
Callum’s grandfather, Alex MacAdie piloting in Port Phillip. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum’s grandfather, Alex MacAdie piloting in Port Phillip. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum’s grandfather, Alex MacAdie piloting in Port Phillip. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum’s grandfather, Alex MacAdie piloting in Port Phillip. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
“I had a really lucky transition — I had my dad as a mentor, best friend, best mate ... and I used to ask, ‘what do I have to do?’,” Mr MacAdie said.

“I diversified. I did towage work on tug boats, I did international work, I tried to get as much experience on as many different ships as possible.

“I’d had interviews and failed in the past, so I simply immersed myself with as many people as possible who were pilots and asked them to share their advice and their experience.

“I spent my leave volunteering and doing simulator training and pilot runs to get the required exposure, so that if I ever got at an interview as a pilot, I’d be ready.”

Mr MacAdie, his then partner, Brittany, and rescue dog, Sandy, left the home he’d built in Margaret River for Esperance — to become Southern Ports’ youngest marine pilot.

Arriving at Southern Ports with no piloting experience, Mr MacAdie underwent intensive training to become a marine pilot.

“There were long hours under supervision, building a wide variety of skills and confidence on the water; mastering exercises in the simulator, travelling to Newcastle for more intensive training, and studying for three different exams,” he said.

“You feel incredibly honoured to have someone back you and make that kind of investment in you.”

Mr MacAdie feels right at home living in the Esperance community and working at the port.

“The environment here is very suited to my personality,” he said.

“I’m suited to the country lifestyle and I’ve been blessed with my colleagues.

“I’m a people person. I love being able to communicate with everyone, and I enjoy an environment where people can be open.

“It’s a very respectful environment, and there isn’t a bad egg here.

“If you’d asked me (a while ago) where I want to be at 50, I’d say where I am right now.

“My wife’s a successful businesswoman in her own right — and an amazing woman.

“I get it all — work, wife and, one day, kids.

“I just want to be a good father, have time with my wife — and kids, enjoy life and what Western Australia and the south coast have to offer, and all the fun that comes with being a ‘grown up’.”

Mr MacAdie credits much of his success to his father’s support.

“For me, the big thing is that I couldn’t have done any of (what I’ve achieved) without my dad,” he said.

“He led the way for me and was so highly regarded. It is nice to know that, and I would want to be the same.

“If there’s anything good you can do at work, it’s to be a kind person and create an environment where you can talk to anyone, be the peace-keeper, listen to your work colleagues and enjoy what you do.

“There’s good and bad in anything, but if you have a good work ethic — a goal, a plan — and you work towards it and find enjoyment in what you do ... well, if you find something you like doing, it’s not really a job — that’s the approach I took.

“And I’m incredibly proud of my old man. It’s all through Hamish that I’ve gained any success ... I’m 100 per cent certain there’s no way we’d be having this conversation if it wasn’t for him.”

“The captain on a ship is nicknamed ‘the old man’ but I was a captain at a very young age, and now have a job ashore at a very young age.

“I’ve been incredibly blessed.”
Callum and Hamish MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum and Hamish MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum and Hamish MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
Callum and Hamish MacAdie. Credit: Southern Ports/Supplied
In November, Mr MacAdie was awarded highly commended in the young achiever’s category of the Australian Shipping and Maritime Awards.
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