Rachel Dunn, 53, is to receive the Merchant Navy Meritorious Service Medal for her ‘exemplary service and outstanding example to others’.
Rachel said: ‘I was surprised to find out I had won the award. I’m not sure who nominated me but it was such a shock when I arrived home and opened the letter. I feel very proud to have received the award and it’s nice to be recognised for what you have done in your career.’
Rachel’s daily duties entail liaising with tug boats, the Queen’s Harbour Master and ship captains to guide vessels into the Ministry of Defence port.
‘The biggest challenges are the fact that Portsmouth Harbour has a very narrow entry and is also one of the busiest in the country. The largest vessel I have ever had to guide in is a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship which was over 200 metres in length,’ she said.
Despite her expertise, Rachel said that from time to time things can go wrong.
‘The most stressful time is when things don’t go to plan. There are certain things beyond your control such as the weather and mechanical failures such as when a tug line snaps,’ she added.
After leaving school at 18, Rachel joined the Merchant Navy, first working on Shell oil tankers, before becoming a captain with Wightlink Ferries. After taking on the role nine years ago she became the first female to become an Admiralty Pilot and hopes the award can help to inspire other women to consider the Merchant Navy as a possible future career.
Rachel said: ‘There were very few females when I started. Numbers are on the increase but it’s still a male dominated industry. It’s a job that women can do just as well as men and so hopefully more young women will consider it as a career.’
Rachel will receive her award along with 19 other mariners during a ceremony at Trinity House in London on November 6.
‘I love piloting. It’s such a rewarding job,’ she commented.