In our latest member profile, Josh Metcalfe, Operations Director at Carmet Tug Company, discusses the family history of the company, future plans for the business, and his new role on the NWA Committee.
Could you tell us about Carmet Tug Company and your background as a business?
We’re a family business, established in 1971 by my grandfather Ian Metcalfe and his business partner Mick Carrier – the name ‘Carmet’ combines the two surnames.
They started off with just one boat on the Mersey, and the business’ biggest success was winning the contract for ship towage on the Manchester ship canal in 1989 – a contract we’re proud to still hold to this day.
Historically, we’ve done a lot of coastal towage – particularly in the 80s and 90s – but over the last 8 years or so, we’ve invested in more multicats and we’ve been taking on work in ports and civil engineering.
And the subsidiary company, Carmet Marine Ltd?
Carmet Marine Ltd was formed in 2015 when we bought the Merseyside shipyard that we had previously used for our own vessels. This was mostly a commercial decision to bring more of our operations ‘in-house’ and protect ourselves from a shipyard monopoly that was raising prices.
We had worked well with the guys who ran the shipyard. They were laid off on a Friday, and we bought the yard and took them back by the following Monday – so there was very little disruption to the day-to-day operations of the yard.
Having said that, we have made some changes – most recently, our purchase of an amphibious boat hoist, designed to support the offshore wind sector by repairing and servicing Crew Transfer Vessels.
How did you personally come to be involved in the maritime sector, and how did you progress towards your current role at Carmet Tug Company?
I joke that I was brainwashed into it – the company was started by my grandfather, and my dad and brother are both involved in the business, too. I was only 6 weeks old when I was first taken on a boat.
I did go away to study sports science at university, but then came back to Liverpool to join the family business. I started from the bottom, as a deck hand, then worked my way up to become a Mate and then a Skipper.
My role now is more office-based, but I’m still a tug Skipper and I like to get out on the water when I can.
What are the current priorities for you as a business? Where do you see opportunities in the sector?
On the tug and workboat side, we’re focusing on consolidating our offering on the Manchester ship canal towage contract – and we’re looking to replace our old vessels, some of which are now 40 years old, to further improve our services.
One of our large multicats enjoyed an 8-month contract last year, working on pipelines off Northern Ireland and Blackpool – and we’re looking to target similar long-term civil engineering contracts for large multicats, in the future.
In terms of the shipyard, the amphibious boat hoist is still new to us, so we’re prioritising getting our name out there and advertising what we can provide to smaller wind farm industry vessels. We’ve also been investing with the aim of offering building services – with the long-term goal of building ourselves a large multicat or two!
Correspondingly, are there any challenges you’re encountering?
From a company perspective, maintaining a fleet of 40-year old vessels requires time and investment – as does upgrading them, which we’re currently in the process of doing.
We are also hitting a crewing challenge, as we pursue long-term, remote multicat contracts. Lots of our guys are locally based – they’re a very good workforce and we’re very proud of them. However, many of them have family commitments and are understandably reluctant to spend a long time away from home. In turn, we trust our workers and would rather not work with people we don’t know.
We’re trying to get around this by bringing on lots of apprentices within the company. They are often more willing to travel for work – and they also represent the new talent that is necessary for the success of the company and the wider industry.
The NWA has been good at recognising this wider recruitment challenge, and its apprenticeship schemes seem to be coming on well.
Why did you stand for election to the NWA committee and what is your aim as a committee member?
Carmet Tug Company has been involved with the NWA since near the beginning – and my Dad was previously on the committee, stepping down last year. Joining the committee will hopefully continue to benefit the company, as well as me personally.
My aim is to work closely with all the members to push the NWA forward. It is a strong association now – and hopefully I’ll be able to support it as I gain more experience, by putting something back into the industry.