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Queen Elizabeth

Meet Queen Elizabeth’s Staff Captain – Hamish Sunter

March 31, 2010

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Queen Elizabeth

Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 193 days


With just over 6 months to go before Queen Elizabeth begins her maiden voyage, I would like to continue the series of introducing you to the Senior Officers who will be heading up the management team of our new liner. Today it’s time to meet the Staff Captain, Hamish Sunter.


Hamish, despite his name, is not a Scot but a Yorkshireman, from the hilltops above Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire. His seafaring career began in 1979 when he joined the Bank Line, a ‘take anything anywhere any time’ tramping company as a Deck Apprentice. After time at sea and at Kingston upon Hull Nautical College, he achieved his Second Mates Certificate in 1983. Over the next seven years, he gained experience on Bulk Carriers, Stand by Vessels, Fishery Patrol Vessels (in the Falklands), and Ro-Ro’s carrying paper products from Finland, where he gained ice navigation experience. During this time he also attended South Shields Nautical College and gained his Mates Certificate 1987. He joined the Cunard Princess in 1990 where he gained his Masters Certificate.  After three years Hamish was transferred to QE2 as a Junior First Officer, rising to the rank of Chief Officer. In 1998, he took up a position as Barge Engineer with Santa Fe Drilling in the North Sea which gave him more time at home. In June 2000, he was offered a position as First Officer with P&O Cruises’ Oriana.  After serving as First Officer and Senior First Officer on various P&O ships, he was asked to join Queen Mary 2 as Chief Officer in October 2005, during which time he was also promoted to Staff Captain. He returned to QE2 in December 2006, finally departing what he calls ‘the grand auld dame’, for the last time when in November 2008, she arrived in Dubai. After a brief spell on Queen Mary 2, Hamish joined Queen Victoria in May 2009, and will soon be bound for Queen Elizabeth in Monfalcone, Italy. 


Hamish still lives on the hilltops above Halifax, with his wife Fiona and three sons James, Edward and Piers.  His main hobby is demolishing and rebuilding various bits of their home, a Pennine Long house, a connected farmhouse and barn.



Other interests are camping and caravanning, plus many outdoor pursuits.



Finally, although not a football fanatic, he supports any team who are playing Manchester United, a team his eldest son is passionate about.



Interview With Staff Captain, Hamish Sunter


Firstly, congratulations on being appointed Queen Elizabeth’s first Staff Captain. What are you most looking forward to as a member of the inaugural team?

Bringing into service another Cunarder with all of her traditional and family values for both crew and guests.


Most of our guests are familiar with the title of Staff Captain, but are less sure of exactly what the role entails.

Another way of describing my role is second in command. I am the Head of the Deck department which includes the Security team and their duties. Although I am involved in the safe navigation of the vessel, my main responsibilities are the stability, safety and general upkeep of the exterior of the vessel.


What is the most frequent question you get asked – and how do you answer it?

There are a couple vying for this one!  Number 1 is ‘If you are here, who is driving the ship?’  Answer….Microsoft….referring to the vast array of electronics that the watch keepers have to hand for navigating the vessel.  Number 2 is ‘Don’t you get fed up of all these parties?’ To which I answer…’No, it is always great to meet new people, but also to catch up with people you have sailed with previously’.


Please could you tell us something about your job that would surprise us?

Many guests will see me wandering around the vessel in my whites looking clean and smart. It really is a good job that they do not see the other side of me in overalls when I have to inspect the ballast tanks at the bottom of the ship.


What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of being involved with a new ship?

Getting her delivered on time and making sure that I haven’t forgotten anything which could impact the delivery of the ship, and then of course easing her into service.


I understand you’ll be going to the ship yard fairly soon, could you tell us what you’ll be doing there up until the delivery of Queen Elizabeth?

Basically setting up the deck department, its responsibilities and how the deck maintenance will be undertaken.  There is a huge task of inputting maintenance requirements into the computer system that we use to ensure that tasks are done at the appropriate time for each individual item we are responsible for.


What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?

Tradition and elegance, but also a big family where it’s great to work


Where would you like to go in the world where you haven’t been yet?

On a vessel that sails the North West Passage. I have been to Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, the Panama Canal and Suez Canal, so the North West Passage is the last one. I have been privileged to be able to go all around the world in my 30 years at sea, something I did not envisage as a young lad on the Pennine hill tops. Here I am with Fiona enjoying the sunset in Dubai.



Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?

Having three strapping sons, I will never be able to walk my daughter up the aisle…particularly as Fiona has said no more children!


When you are on leave; what is your perfect night?

Having a slap up BBQ on a balmy summers evening with Fiona and the boys, as one great evening on the hill tops makes up for a week of bad weather in the winter. Here I am with the boys and the dogs on one of our many long family walks which we all love.



What is your favourite quote and who said it?

It’s not really a quote but a prayer as such and is known by most Yorkshire folk. I know it as the Yorkshire Beggar’s Prayer.  ‘From Hell, Hull and Halifax, pray God deliver me.’  Well as I have been brought up in Halifax, went to college in Hull, the only thing to avoid is Hell!  So it’s a good job I attend the Sunday at Sea service to make sure I don’t end up there!


Thank you Hamish for your time with this interview and enjoy your last bit of leave before heading out to Monfalcone; see you there.


I’ll be back tomorrow with some new pictures of Queen Elizabeth in Italy, and of course lots more next week from Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 on their World Voyages. Cheers for now Alastair.

  1. Angela says:

    Hamish is a great Staff Captain, the hardest working man on the ship. The QE passengers are lucky to have him.

  2. Dave Meineck says:

    Good write up and interview with Hamish, very nice Officer to talk to. Met him on the QE2 & QM2 we wish him all the best on his new appointment, hope to meet again on our Queen Elizabeth trip in the Autumn.
    Margaret & Dave.

  3. Carole Matthews says:

    It was good to meet Hamish on QEII and Victoria and talk about Yorkshire as well as Cunard

  4. MR.V.MITCHELL says:


  5. Angela Butterworth says:

    Excellent interview. Sailed with Hamish onboard QE2 and Cunard Princess 1990-1994. Lovely Northern man, down to earth and realistic; I am sure he makes and excellent Staff Captain (Old man!). Hope to see Cunard ships when they next sail into Freemantle (As I now live in Western Australia) …. If only I could have a peek onboard …. would love to see what a Radio Room now looks like?

  6. Angela Butterworth says:

    Lovely Northen Man, down the earth, knowledgable and fellow Man United hater! Made an excellent officer then so I am sure makes and excellent Staff Captain and Oldman now! Sailed with Hamish onboard QE2 and Cunard Princess 1991-1994 when I was a Communications Assitiant. Good luck on the QE; she will be in very capable hands. Angela

  7. barbara sunter says:

    hi i saw you on tv you have same surname as my husband famiy i was wordering if you could be famiy

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