Shields Ferry is girl powered for the first time in 600 years

Nicola Peach is making waves by becoming the first ever woman to take the controls of the historic cross-Tyne ferry service.

The 37-year-old from Marsden in South Shields, has made history by taking on the role of second mate.

The Shields Ferry in action.

The Shields Ferry in action.

Nicola, who spent eight years in the Merchant Navy, was also the first female ever to successfully apply to Nexus, which owns the ferry, for the job.

There's been a ferry service between North and South Shields since 1377 - but there's never been a lady driving the boat.

Nicola said: “It’s a proud moment for me to become the first woman to take the wheel of the Shields Ferry.

“It’s not something that I initially thought about when I got the job, but it’s nice to know that I’m the first.

“The Shields Ferry is an iconic service and I’m really looking forward to learning the job and passing my boat master’s licence.”

Nicola will spend the next few months learning the controls before she has to sit the maritime equivalent of a driving test, which will allow her to pilot the ferry with passengers on board.

During her time in the merchant navy Nicola travelled all over the world and worked on board giant cargo ships and oil tankers.

And those skills mean that she has taken to the much smaller craft like a duck to water.

Nicola added: “My time in the merchant navy has stood me in good stead as I’m used to driving ships.

“The ferry is vastly different of course, but I’ve got the hang of it really quickly and I’m looking forward to taking my test as soon as possible.

“The lads have been great showing me the ropes. There are lot of procedures to learn but I’m in great hands.”

And Nicola is keen to swat away any ill-founded jibes about ladies reverse parking skills.

Laughing she added: "My reserve parking is absolutely amazing, just like it is in the car,"

Shields ferry manager, Carol Timlin, who also became to first woman to manage the Shields Ferry when she took on the role in 2008, said: “Nicola is our first female member of the crew and we’re all thrilled for her. It’s an historic moment for the ferry service.

“She was the outstanding candidate during the interviews and she is undoubtedly the best person for the job.

“She will spend the next few weeks in a training programme ahead of her test, which has to be supervised by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. She will have absolutely no problem fitting in with the rest of crew and she’s already part of the team.”