Skipton naval Captain David Carter is living his dream – as master of the largest ship in the world.

But when he is not navigating the seas in a vessel three times the size of a football pitch and dispatching occasional pirates with fire hoses, he’s steering a narrowboat up and down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

And he’s in no doubt which is more difficult – the narrowboat which he captains for Skipton and Craven Action for Disability (SCAD).

“The narrowboat is harder. The SCAD boat is quite a big one and there is only a narrow groove in the middle of the canal but, in a big ship, we use pilots in tugs to manoeuvre and every aspect is computerised.

“A narrowboat is much more demanding of personal skills,” he said.

Capt Carter, who joined the Merchant Navy when he was 18, recently took charge of the 345-metre-long Liquefied Natural Gas (LNQ) carrier, Mozah.

The ship, the largest LNG carrier ever built, is named after the wife of the Emir of Qatar and is the first in a fleet of 14 Q-Max ships being built for the Qatar Gas Transport Company. Each of its five cargo carriers is big enough to take three jumbo jets and twice around its decks equals a mile.

The ship will transport LNG from Qatar to the UK and to the rest of the world.

“One cargo alone will supply all the UK’s gas and electric energy requirements for 24 hours and it is part of a 150 billion dollar project to supply not only 20 per cent of the UK’s gas requirement, but also international consumers,” said Capt Carter.

He said it was the largest single shipbuilding project since World War Two and was a key world energy project for the 21st century.

Twenty-five of the vessels will be managed by the UK-based Shell International Trading and Shipping Company and there are a number of British senior officers on board.

Capt Carter, 47, said: “It’s an amazing number of firsts and I am very proud and excited to be there at the start.

“For Shell Shipping this is the largest fleet expansion that we have ever managed and the delivery and management of these ships requires the recruitment and training of as many as 1,300 seafarers.”

Despite its massive size, the ship requires just 40 people to run it. There is a swimming pool, two cinemas, bars and silver service in the dining room and every cabin has en-suite facilities.

“I have a super working life and I never want to come home,” he said.

By 2025, the world is likely to be using more gas than oil.

Qatar is aiming to meet around 30 per cent of the world’s LNG needs and the ships will eventually supply around 20 per cent of the UK’s energy requirements.

“This is not just a big ship, it is essentially a 21st century super-tanker,” said Capt Carter. “What we are doing here is moving into a new generation of energy supply.”

Capt Carter, who has served with Shell since starting as a cadet in 1980, volunteered to work in the new LNG fleet, but never thought he would get the top job.

“You could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard I had command of the first Q-Max,” he said. “For me, it is a real career high and it has been incredible for me to be on the lead ship and setting up all procedures.”

During his career, Capt Carter has seen off boarding pirates – once in Indonesia and once in Bangladesh – and, as a lieutenant attached to Commander Amphibious Task Group with the Royal Marines, gets to play with HMS Ark Royal. He works three months away and then spends three months at home, when he takes groups out on the SCAD Endeavour.

“I’ve been with SCAD for about 15 years and on the first day I came we had a training day. Everyone had a steer and when it came to my turn, I steered it like a ruler right down the canal. I was asked if I’d ever done it before, and I said, narrowboats – never.

“When I eventually told them, they asked me why I’d not said anything and I said, ‘You never asked me!’”

He believes the SCAD project is unique in the UK with many groups – mainly elderly people from care homes – coming back again and again. After three months at home in Skipton, he’s off back to the largest ship in the world.

“I can’t think of any ship I’d rather captain – this is the top command. It is a dream come true,” he said.

“I could be working at the fancy of some billionaire on a yacht, but there would be no sense of purpose and it just wouldn’t be the same.”