Member Profile: Jim Paton, Safety Forum Chairman


This month: NWA Safety Forum Chairman – Jim Paton.

 Jim tells us about his interests, career and his aims in his new role as chair of the safety forum.



–      How did you personally become involved in the maritime sector? What are the notable jobs you have held in your career?

I started my maritime career as a deck apprentice serving on general cargo vessels, bulk carriers and timber ships worldwide progressing to chief officer and working for two companies under the red ensign.

Both companies I worked for operated in the tramping trade, so I did get to visit some interesting places. One bulk carrier I served on as second mate was of particular interest, operating between South America and the Caribbean during the summer months and then between the Caribbean and ports on the St Lawrence or the Baltic Sea during the winter months. It was an ice class ship and my initial briefing on my first watch in the ice was to “follow the leads as near to the course as possible. And watch out for polar bears and people on skidoos. ”

“The Safety Forums are becoming more and more popular and due to this demand; more and more frequent, we don’t expect everybody to turn up to every event – but we do really appreciate the dedication and time given to support the forum by everyone who attends and contributes.”

Completing my service as Chief Officer, I left the sea and joined HM Coastguard, serving on the west coast of Scotland before transferring to Dover where one of my roles was the development and introduction of an updated Channel Navigation Information Service. I was also closely involved with the development of offshore response to major incidents, particularly focused on ferries and passenger vessels, working closely with other European SAR services. This experience proved invaluable when I subsequently transferred to North Wales where I had responsibility for Search and Rescue over a major part of the Irish Sea with its busy ferry routes and the new offshore wind farms which were being developed. I also trained as an auditor and accident investigator, carrying out these roles both within the UK and in the Irish Republic on behalf of the Irish Coastguard Service.

I left full time service in HM Coastguard and joined Turbine Transfers Ltd with the role of Fleet Safety Superintendent. Primarily involved with developing and promoting a safety culture, I also acquired considerable experience in the operation and maintenance of workboats, particularly the high demands on them and their crews during offshore site construction phases. Collaborating with my colleagues in Holyhead Towing to develop safety management systems and progressing ISO certification I also gained some experience in the towing sector.


 –         Can you tell us more about your current interests outside of the Workboat Association?

Although retired from full time coastguard service, I am still a member of a volunteer coastguard rescue team in North Wales with frequent calls to SAR incidents on the north wales coast.

I am the RYA Principal and senior powerboat instructor at our local sailing centre as well as Trustee of our local sailing club where we teach local children to sail with our fleet of optimist and topper dinghies.


 –         How did you first come into contact with the NWA and what made you interested in the role as Chairman of the NWA Safety Forum?

My first contact with the association was not long after I started working with Turbine Transfers when I was asked to review and comment on the G9 (now G+) consultation document ‘ The Safe Management of Small Service Vessels used in the Offshore Wind Industry ‘. During talks with the association chairman and with some of the members, I offered my support to the proposal of a safety forum to raise the profile of the association and promote safety awareness within the workboat industry.


–         What is the biggest focus for you right now as Chairman of the Safety Forum? Are you seeing any challenges in the wider workboat sector?

I consider the main focus of the Safety Forum continues to be promoting a positive safety culture within the industry, identifying safety improvements and learning from members experiences. Associated with this is the need to project our professional profile and competence to clients and regulatory authorities to ensure our inclusion in developments.

In the wider industry the challenges on the radar appear to be environmental issues, both for our clients with future energy requirements and strategies, and for our members with greater demands for greater efficiency and lower carbon footprints. Also worth watching is the ongoing development of technology, particularly communications and social media and the resulting effect on crews and vessel operations.

I am really delighted with my new role in the NWA, the Safety Forums are becoming more and more popular and due to this demand; more and more frequent. We don’t expect everybody to turn up to every event, but we do really appreciate the dedication and time given to support the forum by everyone who attends and contributes throughout the year.



                                                  Jim on the water ready to give training

Member Profile: Jim Paton, Safety Forum Chairman