THIS weekend, the “jewel in the crown” of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations are being helped on their way by two Chester men.
Stuart Wood from Bickerton and Ben Hayes from Newton are responsible for ensuring the vessels dock safely for the Tall Ships.
Stuart, 65, is a chief pilot with the Merchant Navy and has held a licence to work in the famous dock for 40 years.
“It will take two days to get all the ships safely in, and one day to depart,” said Stuart.
“It is a massive challenge and we have had to ask all 50 of our pilots to be available for the event.
“The races are truly the jewel in the crown of the Capital of Culture celebrations and we are responsible for organising and allocating all of the vessels for the event, as well as dealing with the normal commercial traffic in and out of the dock.”
Pilots sail out to meet incoming vessels about 20 miles out and guide the ships safely into port.
Stuart and Ben have been planning the event down to the finest detail with the Tall Ships committee for the past six months.
Ben, 45, is a senior pilot and former ships master who has worked at Liverpool for the last 10 years.
He said: “We are expecting more than 60 ships which have to be safely guided in within a relatively short period of time, but I have to admit that even though I have worked with the Tall Ships before, I am looking forward to boarding some of the bigger ships like the Dar Mlodziezy.”
Stuart, who retires in June, had the honour of bringing in the Lord Nelson on Sunday, a specially adapted ship designed to accommodate people with disabilities which is owned by the Jubilee Trust.
He added: “Every day is a challenge, every day is different. The port is definitely on the up, trade and business are increasing and we will soon have the ability to take chilled products and even passengers. There is now nothing Liverpool cannot do and it is a great honour to play host to these magnificent ships.”
To track the progress of the Tall Ships as they come into Liverpool, go to www.shipais.com.