Our People: Port News: From Sea to Shore: Joanne Farmer’s pioneering pilot career

Joanne Farmer has been a prominent face at LPC for over two decades, but her journey to become a pilot started much earlier. She was the first woman in New Zealand to obtain her MFG Certificate, command of a vessel, and be a pilot. She recently retired from piloting and shared some of her memories and insights.

Her grandparents were involved in the shipping industry, and her father was a fisheries inspector. She also has a brother who went to sea a few years before her as a rating. Joanne belonged to the Lyttelton Sea Venturers along with John Clarke and Finlay Laird. They all applied to the USSCo for an apprenticeship, all got accepted, and ended up piloting in Lyttelton.

Joanne went through the USSCo fleet namely Tasman Venture, Union Rotoiti. Tasman Venture, Kotuku, Ngahere, Amokura, Marama and finally the Holmdale until she was made redundant in 1984 after getting her second mate’s certificate. She then got a job on the Aotea (P&O NZ) as a 3rd mate, working with another female pioneer, Roselyne Yeandle. She worked her way up and gained her master’s certificate in 1990.

She joined Jardine Ship Management out of Hong Kong and ended up spending almost 10 years with them. On these ships, she sailed around the Medi, up the Amazon, other ports in Brazil, Japan, BC, UK Europe and the States.

Then after gaining her MFG Certificate in 1990 joined a ship called the Nueva Andalucia in Japan.

Experiencing General Cargo Ships with ‘tween decks, Reefer hatches, Union Purchase, Jumbo and Gemini Cranes is something she said she’d only ever dreamt about. She ended up doing three trips on these vessels as Chief Mate before they were semi converted to take 20 & 40’containers in the hatch square and on deck. They traded Japan to West Coast Colombia and Central America , and then the Caribbean Ports.

She said her greatest achievement as a pilot was her first solo pilotage – the Dong Wong 529 into Z berth in a howling southerly, no Tugs, 8m clear ahead and 8m clear astern and she went in perfectly – never to be repeated! The Port was closed later that day due to the strengthening Southerly.

She also recalled the moment when she met her brother at the Pilot Ladder, and escorted to the Bridge and dutifully handed a piping hot cup of tea!

Lyttelton was always home and she says when she got a call that LPC were hiring, the rest was history.

Joanne retired from piloting this year and is now working as a Marine Project Specialist. She said she would highly recommend a career as a pilot to anyone. She said piloting is extremely rewarding and every day is a school day!

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