Author: Kerrie Forster

Guide to Brexit for the Workboat Industry

Following two workshops held during the Transition Period between the Workboat Association, UK Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – the following guide has been created for stakeholders of the Workboat Industry.

In the coming months before the end of 2020, independent agreements with foreign countries and their maritime administrations may happen, until this information is formally announced it is advised that all UK Workboat Industry stakeholders read and understand this guide and where available / relevant; follow the links for further official Government information.

Member Profile: Neil Brockman – Cormorant Cruises

Neil informs us about his career and his new business as owner of Cormorant Cruises, based in Cornwall.


What is your background?

I grew up within a family committed to the RNLI in a small town in Cornwall, when I was old enough I followed my family’s footsteps and became a volunteer myself. At the age of 26 I became the fulltime Coxswain of our local lifeboat having previously spent some time as the Skipper of a fishing trawler. After 30 years’ service in the RNLI I made a move into the Workboat sector as a Master to have a change and embrace a new sector within the maritime industry.

What services do you currently offer?

I am a freelance Workboat Master and Fishing vessel Skipper, I also have a small commercial workboat of my own in my hometown of Mousehole in Cornwall which I operate in Summer as a local tour vessel including sights and stories on local wildlife, geology and history for both residents and holiday makers.

What has been the main driver for you to join the Workboat Association?

I have many friends who are members of the WA and I am fully supportive of industry collaborating to join efforts together, especially when it comes to training and safety. As I haven’t owned my company/vessel for long I find it is extremely valuable to have the support of others with experience around me.

Can you name a few highlights from your career?

In 2007 the RNLI took me to Shanghai with two other Coxswains to train employees of the Chinese Government on operating, handling and maintaining high-speed rescue craft; as they redeveloped their own Marine Rescue service. I spent over a month there, learning lots myself about the local culture and a different perspective on small vessel operations, I met some really great people – it’s a time I will never forget.

What are the current projects/vessels you are working on?

Now my own vessel is laid-up for winter, when I return home she will be taken out of the water where she will stay until next season. Currently I am working in the Netherlands for Acta Marine on board a vessel working on the Fryslân Wind Farm construction project. I enjoy the flexibility of my work and the changes in scenery and work scopes.

Do you have any advice to other self-employed workboat Masters or single vessel owners?

My father always told me “Look after your boat, [whoever’s boat you are working on] and your boat will look after you”. Keep enthused about training on board, I have first-hand witnessed many times the outcomes of when emergency preparedness is not taken seriously; You have to expect the unexpected when working at sea.

How has your background in the RNLI affected your work today?

Working for the RNLI gave me a professional and serious understanding about the risks of working and enjoying recreation at sea. You cannot be complacent as conditions and situations vary everyday and they can also change with the ‘click of a switch’. Although my ties with the RNLI are no longer operationally active, I remain dutiful to the cause and hold the highest respect for all those volunteering their time and risking their lives in the effort to save others. I, to this day believe that all mariners could learn a great deal from the eyes of someone who has served in a Marine Rescue Service, of which the RNLI is one of the best.

Member Profile: Ernst-Jan Kouveld, ORCA Crew Services

Ernst-Jan, Area Manager at South-Netherlands based Crew Services provider (and sponsors of the Workboat Association’s 25th Anniversary Drinks Reception) – ORCA Crew Services – tells us a little more about the ORCA team, their offering and objectives in this month’s Member Profile.

(Pictured here on the left with two of his colleagues. Attendees of the 2020 AGM may well recognise Rob Vermeulen, centre)


What is the history of ORCA Crew Services BV.?

ORCA Crew Services BV was founded in September 2017 by a group of like-minded professionals with large experience in Maritime and Offshore recruitment services.

With 3 x branch offices and several dedicated agencies ORCA can provide bespoke turnkey recruitment solutions to their clients worldwide.


When did you join the company?

I personally joined ORCA on January 1st 2018, recently after the company was established and have enjoyed everyday since – we have a great team and I really like the interaction with our clients.


What is your background?

It has been varied, but always in Maritime Industry Services, for over 15 years now. I have experience as a Ships Agent, working for Shipowners and Ship Management Companies and of course; Crewing Agencies.


What services do ORCA currently offer and what is your specialism?

We provide a range of Crewing related services to our customers, these include (but are not limited to);

  • Crew Management / Organisation
  • Recruitment, placement and research
  • Payroll Solutions
  • Ship Delivery Solutions
  • Permanent and temporary Staffing
  • Training Solutions
  • Logistical Services

I am the Manager of the Netherlands so I have a good oversight of many of these services in my sector, key to my role would be client engagement and working to provide them with high quality and professional solutions.


What are the objectives of ORCA?

ORCA’s objectives quite simply are; maintaining the high-level of services we deliver to our clients and gaining market share with innovative solutions.


Has there been any significant highlights since the conception of ORCA Crew Services?

A major milestone has been the signing of some large framework agreements within the more well-known Offshore Wind Contractors, we are glad to supply the entire project spread from Hopper dredgers to Multicats and from Offshore Construction Vessels to Crew Transfer Vessels.


What was the main driver for ORCA to join the Workboat Association in 2019?

Amongst our clients many are Workboat Association members, so it is always beneficial hearing the challenges and best practices they are experiencing in the market. By being a member it is actually mutually-beneficial, we learn at the same time as our clients so we can continue to remain current with expectations and best practice whilst also giving back to the industry with help from our membership and sponsorship of the Association.


What are the greatest crewing challenges that you experience in the Workboat industry currently?

At moment, despite any ‘normally’ perceived challenges (which we are experienced to manage and advise on), it has to be “How the COVID-19 crisis restricts travelling” especially from and to the Middle East in order to carry out crew changes, we see Shipping Companies unable to relieve crew on board >6 months.

How do you think Brexit may affect your business?

It is our motto to turn challenges into opportunities, we have a broad range of payroll facilities – we anticipate that their will be hurdles regarding the forthcoming Brexit but due to our wide offering we believe we are suited to be able to offer continuity with little disruption.

We do realize that obvious routine will become more bureaucratic once the Brexit enters into effect but until the final exit negotiations are complete it is not fully known the exact details that will affect UK Crewing, we continue to keep a close eye on this and we are ready to assist once the decision is made.


Member Profile: Stuart Finlayson – Outreach Offshore

Stuart is the General Manager of new members: Outreach Offshore Ltd. In this month’s article he informs us about the company, its offering and some quick win ways to increase workboat lifting equipment safety.


“Joining the Workboat Association is an exciting move for Outreach Offshore – we would like to share our experience within the workboat sector for health and safety improvements.”


What is the history of Outreach Offshore Ltd.?

Outreach Offshore Limited, formally a division of Outreach Ltd is renowned as a leading supplier of hydraulic handling, lifting and access equipment within the wind, oil and gas, shipbuilding, aquaculture and marine industries. Products sold by Outreach Offshore Limited are universally recognised as being of the highest quality. Each product is carefully matched to the intended application and fully engineered. This ensures compliance with all relevant codes and standards. This also ensures the result contributes to maximum benefits to the client, whilst managing a budget.

When did you join the company?

I joined the company 5 years ago when it was part of Outreach Ltd. At the time, the main goal was to build and enhance the Outreach offshore division of the company. After the business was demerged I became the lead of the newly formed Outreach Offshore business. The focus of this new business venture was to service the specialist sectors in marine, oil and gas, wind energy and shipbuilding.

What is your background?

I’ve had many roles within the oil & gas, wind energy and shipbuilding industries over the past 39 years, with experience in multiple complex projects. I have always aimed to provide the best solution for clients while maintaining excellent quality – I have made a good career based on developing active customer relationships supported by our extensive technical knowledge, we are fully equipped to assist in all aspects of your [lifting] equipment needs for your project.

What services do you currently offer?

Outreach Offshore Limited supply and install bespoke hydraulic lifting solutions including R.O.V LARS systems, control cabins, specialist tether winches alongside handling and access equipment for offshore and onshore activities. This includes marine cranes manufactured by the PALFINGER Group.

Ancillary activities include importation, installation, load testing, repair, servicing, commissioning, demonstration, operator training, production, and testing. Alongside this extensive list, we also provide engineering design services to meet the needs of any project.

Outreach Offshore Limited is committed to providing the correct support and services for your project. We like to take a proactive approach with our products in which we will examine, maintain and provide crane parts packages or just parts support post-purchase. This is included with our comprehensive support and service packages.

What are the objectives of Outreach Offshore?

Outreach Offshore’s primary objectives are to provide our clients with lifting solutions that meet their standards and provide reliability in service by supplying quality equipment that is reliable and fits the needs of our client’s operational capability. However, conversely, we also understand that in the current economic climate we find ourselves in means that budgets are very important in the overall success of a project. This is why we use our extensive knowledge and understanding of the marine sector to engage with our clients to enable the most cost-effective and compatible solution which can also be delivered in a suitable time-frame to keep up with project deadlines.

What has been the main driver for you to join the Workboat Association?

To gain opportunity within the industry that enables us to showcase our capabilities. We offer world-class service and products that are specifically manufactured for this key sector. As the main Palfinger dealer in the UK, we feel that these products will fit well within the industry due to the fact that they are engineered to a very high quality and standard whilst providing lightweight, structural capabilities. The workboat sector would benefit from this continued innovation as well as their stringent safety standards. Similarly, Outreach Offshore would like to share our experience within the workboat sector for health and safety improvements.

Could you give us some quick-win advice to those responsible for cranes on Workboats?

Good technical support is essential to enable the correct choice of crane specific to each workboats capability. Choosing the correct crane duty and operational capability is fundamental to vessel safety and stability. This includes taking into consideration, significant wave height (Hs), over boarding requirements, power requirements and corrosion protection which is all based on the conditions in which the crane will be subject to daily.

Secondly, it is vital that the crane operators are fully trained by an accredited provider to ensure health and safety awareness while operating equipment is fully understood. This ensures peace of mind that the health and safety and well-being are managed while operating a complex piece of equipment. Each piece of equipment has differing skills needs to maintain and operate it, Outreach Offshore offer ALLMI accredited training courses specifically tailored to suit each customer’s requirements.

Lastly, it is greatly important that maintenance requirements are met on-time and correctly to ensure that cranes remain in good condition, this provides to ensure longevity, minimise risk and increase reliability. To promote this always use a reputable company to supply technical service and parts backup, this is vital to minimise downtime of machinery and keep systems running.

Do you have any unique offerings for the Workboat Industry?

Outreach Offshore Limited has extensive knowledge in sectors that are directly serviced by the workboat industry. This knowledge and experience of environmental requirements allow us to provide the best solutions possible for our workboat clientele.

Alongside this, over the past year Outreach Offshore Limited has been developing our unique Mini eLARS System. Small ROVs are increasingly being used within the workboat industry for inspection/intervention, seabed mapping and maintenance work. From this, we have identified a health and safety requirement to aid with the deployment and retrieval of these small ROV vehicles. We have spent over a year developing a solution made to safely launch and recover vehicles in a controlled condition, removing manual handling risks to the operator through innovation. This system is fully electric, which negates the requirement for hydraulic control and again matches environmental needs to remove the potential for oil spillages into the sea. The system integrates our MK8 tether winch which is 90% made of polypropylene.

Joining the Workboat Association is an exciting move for Outreach Offshore, as we aim to contribute with our knowledge and experience of supplying an engineered lifting solution that matches each individual task. We see the workboat association as an ideal platform to showcase our world-class equipment but also further develop our ability to provide our products and services into an evolving and diverse sector that we see through health and safety needs as standards develop.

Meet the Apprentice: David Carter – Williams Shipping

David studied as an apprentice at Whitby Fishing School/ 54′ North Maritime Training

  • Name: David Carter
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 25
  • Company: Williams Shipping
  • Interests outside of work: Rugby, Running and Paddle Boarding

What Apprenticeship did you undertake and when?

Actually, contrary to my position on Workboats; I completed a Fishing Apprenticeship at Whitby Fishing School in 2012. The Workboat Crewmember Apprenticeship was not yet finalised at that time, this was the closest Apprenticeship to my ambitions on Workboats. Since that time the Whitby Fishing School started 54′ North Maritime Training and through this arm they now offer the Workboat Crewmember Apprenticeship.

Where are you now
and what role do you hold?

I am now working as a Master for Williams Shipping on board small Mulitcats ranging between 14 < 20 metres LOA

What are your ambitions for career?

I would eventually like to be Master of a large Multicat, something around 30 meters plus, this ambition gives be good focus and drive to succeed.

[There’s a good business case for Williams Shipping!]

What is your favourite part of your job currently?

My favourite part about my job is definitely the variety – no day is ever the same, it never gets boring. I would not like a job where you did the same thing all the time, this would be too repetitive for me and it would not challenge me in the right way to keep me motivated.

Do you have any advice for others interested in possibly becoming an Apprentice in the Workboat Industry?

If you want to do well in this industry, you really have to enjoy your job and be prepared to work hard, being part of the crew on board a workboat is not something that you can just turn up, do your hours, then go home. You have to be part of a team, they depend on you, and so does the boat. The better you treat the boat and your equipment – the better it treats you. Time and effort put in to your work definitely helps you to achieve great results and creates a good working atmosphere that you can enjoy and be proud of.

WA Members Short Film Competition

Do you enjoy making videos and would like to show us your work place?

The Workboat Association is creating a short film to showcase our industry, the association and career opportunities, and we want you to be the the moviemakers!

Entries for the competition can be submitted during September and October and prizes will be awarded for winners of the following categories;

  • Best video
  • Most interesting work scope
  • Best in sector: Towing, Energy Sector, Aquaculture and Marine Civils
  • Inspiring Story or Script

We are interested for short films showing your work location, whether it is on board a vessel, in a Port, in the office or traveling! Films can either be silent or narrated, real-time or sped-up and can tell a story of what life working in the Workboat Industry means for you or it could simply show part of an operation you are engaged with.

*But, we do ask you to remember any workplace media policies and to respect the privacy of others, please make sure you have permission from the workplace and those featured in the video before sharing.

Maximum video length: 2 minutes per video, unlimited number of videos per entry.

Entries will be judged by the Training Workgroup, all entries will be checked and authorised by the vessel owner/member before inclusion in the WA Short Film.

To submit an entry or for more details on how to submit an entry please contact Kerrie Forster via:

Good luck!

Norman Finlay MBE. “The Grandfather of the Workboat Industry”

It is with deepest sadness we mourn the passing of the Workboat Association’s Life President: Norman Finlay MBE. Wednesday 5th August 2020, University Hospital Southampton, age 84.

Following a career at sea and then as Superintendent of a dredger fleet, Mr Finlay became involved with workboats early in his career, and went on to become one of the main driving forces behind the establishment and development of the UK Workboat sector of the Merchant Navy in the 1970s, playing his part in the rapid development of the industry and in the technical advancements made.

He continued to work in the industry ever since, running his own Surveying business he became President of the SCMS and through this network became the key player in the development of the original Workboat Code with the MCA (then the MSA) in the early 1990s and the revisions ever since. This project became the forming of the Workboat Association in 1994, of which Mr Finlay took the role as Secretary until 2011, then Life President.

In 2013 Mr Finlay was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (pictured) at the Seawork Mercator Media Awards, followed suitably by the award of a MBE by her Majesty the Queen in 2018 for his services to the sector.

Norman Finlay receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award,
Seawork Mercator Media Awards 2013

Words by Kerrie Forster, CEO The Workboat Association.

My own connection with Norman came soon before the time he received his Lifetime Achievement Award at Seawork 2013, Norman was still actively surveying vessels all over the world at this point. He was tasked to visit a couple of vessels that my company owned in North Wales, the then Manager of our company was having serious problems getting authorisation for a visitor to access the site to see the vessels (even if it was on official duty). After arriving at the Port Norman calmly said “Leave it to me, I’ve been in this business a long time”, he drove away. 10 minutes later he was spotted walking in full PPE and with a Harbour Master’s escort across the other side of the Port towards the vessels: “first job done” he said as he smiled back and waved, ready to board the vessels.

Since playing a more active role in the Association, first as a Committee member, then as CEO, my relationship with Norman quickly grew into one of a mentor towards his under-grad. Norman wasn’t a person to waste time, car journeys or time spent in his home-office were made up reliving important historical lessons connected to the Offshore Contracting Industry, facts about why certain processes have to happen in particular ways, providing me with personal contacts and backgrounds to expand my network and of course a lot of dreaming about the good ol’days. This education has been very important to me.

Norman moved from Belfast to the River Mersey in his youth, his family back home also in the maritime industry at the famous Harland and Wolf Shipyard. When I informed him at the start of this year that the Association had sponsored an area of woodland [Storeton Woods, Bebington] close to the River Mersey, he paused, his tone lifted and he quickly started recalling lots of memories of spending his leisure time in and around the woods.

At Seawork last year myself and Norman hosted a “Workboat Industry FAQ” session with some Apprentices currently studying for a career on Workboats. He told them the story of how for many years he had managed the operation of a small workboat, permanently chained to a small pontoon, which he used in dredging projects to move the cutting heads around sites [as seen on a large painting in his office]. When the time came to take the workboat out of the water for survey, Norman explained “after 24hours of blood, sweat and tears trying to remove the chains and associated connections, it became obvious this was going to be a one-way process!”. A member of Damen Shipyards said to him “With some trialling, we might be able to fit some drive-legs directly onto the pontoon if you think it could be worth the investment?”, “Well” Norman said “soon after it was launched it was fitted with a small shelter, mainly to protect the controls; right there we had the World’s first Multicat”.

One of the Apprentices said to me after the event “Thank you so much for talking to me, I cannot believe I actually met the man who invented the Multicat!!”

 I am sure Norman would have been more modest!

To those that worked with him, Norman Finlay was a true Professional. To anybody who knew Norman, he was an honest Gentleman.

We offer our greatest sympathies to his Wife and Children; Alison, Fiona and Heather. All of whom have become a part of the Association and its members lives over the last 25 years.

Norman, as we watch you depart port for the last time, we lower our flags to half-mast in memory of a man that has supported so many of us to become who we are today. You’re leadership, encouragement and passion has been the driver that has set the foundations for our industry.

Fair winds and following seas.

Launch of: Carriage of Dangerous Goods on Workboats GPG

The carriage of Dangerous Goods on Workboats Good Practice Guide is printed and ready for distribution.

Those interested in purchasing copies of the guide can contact the Workboat Association now via:
(Hard copies available only)

“The carriage of Dangerous Goods on Workboats Good Practice Guide has been developed between the Industry and Regulators, providing a zero to hero knowledge on both the regulations and best practice associated with the transport of Dangerous Goods by sea on board Workboats.”

“Written with Seafarers, the vessel Management, stakeholders and end-Clients all in mind, this guide is set to be an unmissable tool from the education and training of those wishing to operate, work with or contract Workboats of any nature”

Kerrie Forster, Workboat Association CEO.

Costs per copy:

Members: £ 10 (plus postage)

Non-members: £ 12.50 (plus postage)

Orders of 20 copies or more receive 25% discount

BREXIT – Update Page (*new info)

A page dedicated to Brexit updates and official promulgation


Update #1

Update #2

July 2020 – The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System: Further Details

Update #3

August 2020 – Three steps to prepare for the end of the transition period (Advice for business)

Update #4

August 2020 – Importing goods from January 2021: The UK Global Tariff 

Update #5

August 2020 – Visit Europe from 1 January 2021

Update #6

August 2020 – New employee coming to work in the UK from abroad

Update #7

Update #8

September 2020 – Survey: Answer a few questions to get a personalised list of actions for you, your family, and your business

Update #9

October 2020 – BREXIT Workshop with the UK Department for Transport and MCA: 28th October @ 12:00-13:30 online

Joining details and agenda will be promulgated closer to the event

Update #10

October 2020 – End of the Transition Period information video by the UK Government: Watch it here

Update #11

October 2020 – Workboat Association Guide, Impact of Brexit for the Workboat Industry: View it here


Updates will be added sequentiallyIf you are aware of important and relevant information concerning Britain’s withdrawal from the EU that is not featured on this page please contact the WA via the contact page

Member Profile: David McGregor, Maritime Craft Services (Clyde) Ltd

Maritime Craft Services were one of the founding members of the Workboat Association in 1994, the following year David McGregor joined their team. Now Operations Director, David tells us more about MCS and how the company has developed in the last 25 years.


“I have seen a number of improvements, advancements and changes in our industry over the years, we have enlightened the naysayers and skeptics and shown ourselves to be the professional, well represented body of good people we always knew we were, the sector contributes significantly to our economy, offering quality jobs, export trade and excellent career opportunities for both young people and those (like me) who join as secondary careers. I hope that never changes.”

Can you introduce us to Maritime Craft Services and the main sectors you are working in?

When I started working for MCS in 1995 as Operations Manager; the company owned and operated a fleet of workboats, multipurpose tugs and Multi-Cats, our core business back then was dredging support and marine construction with the occasional coastal towing job and MOD support. 

Since that time MCS have expanded almost continuously over the preceding years and in 2011 we entered into a new industry, the renewable energy sector, with the purchase of our first CTVs – of which we now own 11!

What countries are you largely active in?

The company has operated internationally since the outset, mainly in Europe, and in 2005 expanded operations into the Middle East when the first of our vessels headed for Dubai to start work on The World and Palm projects. We embraced and overcame the challenges presented in this region and as a result we have expanded and thrived in a highly competitive market place.

The countries into which we have sailed our vessels to support our long-established (and many new) clients are too numerous to list, but we have ‘flown the flag’ as far afield as Australia, Mauritius and Bangladesh. It’s a well-worn cliché but I can honestly say that there has never been a dull moment at MCS!

Can you give us an introduction to your career?

In my journey to our industry I passed through various others, such as petrochemical, shipbuilding, nuclear and aerospace. Since joining MCS and the workboat industry in general, my knowledge of all the technical systems found on board our ships has broadened extensively beyond my original electrical discipline, which I have found extremely interesting.

Does the company have any exciting projects currently underway?

For the past few years MCS have focused on the development of SWATH vessels which has been a new and exciting ‘learning curve’ for us all. We have also continued to develop and expand our traditional fleet in line with industry demands and requirements, this has seen vessels growing ever larger and far more sophisticated than they ever were back in the days of Morse controls, DIY showers for the crew and dodgy ship-to-shore communications!

What are the main concerns currently at MCS?

Our industry, as well as most others, has been adversely affected by the present world pandemic, the consequences of which will be felt for many years to come, this should concern us all, along with recent information that continued free movement of our vessels within Europe will not form part of any Brexit negotiations again has us concerned.

Another major issue is the HMRC Capital Allowance Case and their pursuit to change our steel hull vessels from short life assets to long life assets. This issue is not going away, and it’s going to be a major issue for the industry as more and more companies are being investigated.  Now is the time for the Workboat Association to lobby together and fight this in unity before it’s too late for all.

Although MCS have long championed the Workboat Association (since it’s outset) with Dirk being a founder member, myself as a committee member in the late nineties (now returned to post again) and Yvonne having sat a long period through the millennia , we feel the need to support our Association has never been greater than now in these uncertain times.