The slippery rope ladder seemed to stretch towards infinity ahead of me.
It was raining, but thankfully the sea wasn't rough. I had expected worse.
The camera equipment in my backpack started to weigh heavily on my mind.
What if my arms tired and I lost grip and fell? What if my backpack were to drop into the depths of the sea?
Even though I was precariously perched on the rope ladder, my mind was more concerned about the equipment.
Staying positive, I steeled myself to concentrate on advancing one step at a time. Right hand grab, left hand grab, right leg up, left leg up...slow and steady.
I must have appeared very clumsy as everyone - the launch master, my harbour pilot friend Alivia Tay, senior pilot Mr Shapudin, and the container ship crewman from above - witnessed my ascent.
I paused to calm my nerves, but the wind blew and the ladder swayed sideways, moving me along with it. I could also hear the wooden rungs below me beat against the side of the ship's hull.
Taking a deep breath, I hastened my climb before the next gust of wind hit me. Mr Shapudin said reassuringly: "It's okay. Take your time."
Little did I realise that scaling up a 58m-high container ship was just a small challenge to what lay ahead.
Alivia Tay scaling the pilot's ladder. -- ST PHOTO: Ashleigh Sim
When I finally reached the top, my gloves were black with grease, and it was the same for the knee section of my trousers.
I looked at Alivia and Mr Shapudin. Other than their gloves, their uniforms remained crisp, and still WHITE.
I quizzed Alivia over dinner at the end of that very tiring day: "If pilots have to scale ships of this size up and down three times or more a day, surely this must be the most difficult aspect of the job?"
"We are quite used to it," she said without missing a beat. "What's on my mind is the job ahead of me. It's more stressful than it seems."
I found out that harbour pilots not only have to steer ships to safety within Singapore's waters, but berth them without any mishaps too. That is their chief concern.
If an accident occurs, she explained, lives of the mooring gang on the ground as well as the crew members of the ship, could be at stake.
Now I truly respect harbour pilots and the huge responsibilities they shoulder.
While their job description may not sound as grand as fighter pilots who protect our skies, the mettle of these 218 men and two women are admirable.