Member Profile: Mark Rickard, Falmouth Towing

Who are Falmouth Towing and what is their history?

Falmouth Towage Company was established in 1892, providing towage support to Falmouth Bay, Carrick Roads, Port of Falmouth and the Port of Truro. At this time the company started with 2 x tugs, then in 1931 the company doubled its activity and purchased a further  2 x powerful steam tugs.

The first motor tug joined the fleet in 1967, named “Motor Tug St Eval” and by 1987 the fleet was again operating 4 x tugs, the “St Mawes”, “St Gluvias”, “St Piran” and “St Budoc”.
In 2001 the St Piran started conducting the occasional coastal tow as well as salvage work, at this point the remaining 3 x tugs were all put up for sale. The Voith era of Falmouth Docks and Engineering company was born with the purchase of the tugs “Ankorva” and “Percuil”. The St Piran soldiered on until 2007, when she was replaced with the “Hallgarth” another twin-voith tractor tug, now renamed the St Piran, which we still operate to this day.

From 2008, Falmouth Towing (part of the larger “Falmouth Docks and Engineering company”) operated with the 3 x tugs, until 2018 when Ankorva was retired due to mechanical failure. The hunt was on for another vessel. In 2020 we purchased the “Svitzer Mercia” – renaming her simply “Mercia”, the biggest and the most powerful tug the company has ever owned. We are now back up to 3 x tugs and taking every challenge one step at a time.

When did you start with Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company and what was your background?

I  started my sea-going career in 2001 as a young 17yr old deck cadet with Global Marine Systems (Previously: Cable and Wireless, now WA members via subsidiary CWind).
I worked my way through the cadetship, through 3rd/2nd mate and finally Chief officer. At this point I came ashore to join Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company (FDEC) part of the A&P group. for the 1st time. It quickly became apparent that towing/workboats was a passion of mine, at this point I got heavily involved with Marine and Towage Services (MTS Group LTD) and became the Marine Superintendent for 5 years. This job took me far and wide, I had great responsibility (to look after a whole range of Workboats, Tugs) but, in-the-end the draw back home to Falmouth was too much. So, in 2015 I re-joined FDEC as the Marine Operations Manager for Towage Operations.

What is your position now within the Company?

Still Marine Operations Manager for our Towage operations, but now I also juggle being Dockmaster; responsible for all floating assets, whether that is workboats/ tugs/ barges and I am also a Skipper of all Tugs when necessary. I form part of a brilliant team, who together, are responsible for all shipping movements within the Harbour.

What is your fleet size and what vessel do you operate?

Falmouth Towage currently has 3 x twin Voith tractor tugs.

Mercia – 43t Bollard pull
St Piran – 23t Bollard pull
Percuil – 17t Bollard pull

As previously described, Mercia is the flagship asset to the company, purchased in 2020. She is the main vessel that we operate on a daily basis both within the Port and also for Coastal towing operations.

When did you first realise you wanted a career in small commercial vessels?

My career in Tugs and Workboats really took hold of my life when I came ashore in 2009,
It was a big step for me (coming from large Cable Vessels / Survey Vessels), throughout a deep-sea career you are taught to stay away from other vessels, shallow waters, give all navigational risks a wide berth etc! I came into this industry, was put on a tug and told to get as close as possible to a ship which was making way and then finally; attach myself to it!
Interesting to say the least.

How does the dynamic between the towage company and the docks work?

The relationship between A&P Falmouth and Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company (FDEC) works really well, we are on hand to assist with all Marine operations from;
Moving vessels in and around the dry docks, supplying crew to assist in larger vessel dockings, conducting marine evacuation drills, supplying of barges/ pontoons for floating maintenance and civil works, and we are also responsible for our own wharf/ infrastructure maintenance within the yard.

What challenges you and keeps you enthusiastic within your role at FDEC?

Over the last year, dealing with the purchase of “Mercia”, which is proving every day to be a fantastic asset for the company. As well arranging her re-activation, her 30yr dry docking survey and dealing with COVID and all the challenges that it brought for our day to day operations.

I can say with certainly that never have any two days that are the same with FDEC and within my role in the port. One day we are docking large MoD vessels, the next day I’m towing deadships around the harbour or taking the tugs out to deal with an incident/grounding within Falmouth Bay. It keeps me on my toes and actually makes my job very enjoyable, coming to work is actually something I genuinely look forward to.

What can we expect in the future from FDEC (is there any news that could appeal to members)?

The future for FDEC is certainly something in which I am hoping to be a big part of,  for example, longer distance tows with Mercia is something we have started to implement. I am hoping to grow this side of the business as it is a part of our operations that is becoming more and more effective and it is also very rewarding. Also we look to expand our operations supporting and servicing the visiting vessels both within Falmouth Bay and off-Port limits with our dedicated tendering workboat “Triton” (Ex-RNLI Tyne Class Lifeboat).

Member Profile: Mark Rickard, Falmouth Towing