Having completed his OOW Unlimited Cadetship, Owen visited both the Arctic and Antarctic with BAS before returning to his beginnings at Brightlingsea Harbour
What it really did teach us was (as Kenneth Grahame so eloquently put); “there is absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing, as simply messing about in boats”.
Where is Brightlingsea Harbour located and what is your commercial offering for the Workboat sector?
Brightlingsea Harbour is located centrally within the Northern Thames estuary, where many of the workboat sector often have requirements to service local marine operations for both short and extended periods. Brightlingsea Harbour is a popular choice for leisure and commercial users, offering a natural harbour to berth vessels in a location where the full life-support for that vessel can be provided (thanks to mature and evolving local maritime industries and facilities). Repeat trade is a core strength of ours, sometimes we see old faces come back simply to layby their vessels prior to a deployment. Brightlingsea Harbour facilitates solutions for small vessel users at costs more competitive than many ports and facilities within the Thames estuary and surrounding areas.
What is your role and when did you first start at Brightlingsea Harbour?
I first started working here as a harbour assistant shortly after leaving university, taking on tasks such as pressure washing pontoons, driving the water taxi, and assisting in berthing visiting yachts. After working for the harbour for several years I decided that I wanted to progress my career deep sea, so I took up a cadetship with Trinity House training to be a navigation officer. After studying for a number of years I qualified as an Officer Of the Watch Unlimited and took up a position as 3rd Officer with British Antarctic Survey (BAS); after several years working for BAS culminating in my position on the trials and commissioning team for the RRS Sir David Attenborough, I was offered the position of Deputy Harbour Master back at Brightlingsea Harbour which I gladly accepted taking me full circle, where I now find myself leading a growing team with a variety of services on offer.
What are the responsibilities of Brightlingsea Harbour Commisioners?
Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners have a general obligation to keep [under formal and active consideration] the overall safety of the Harbour as a service and a facility, and to apply all available statutory powers as appropriate to secure the safe use of the Harbour by all craft. This includes the maintenance of navigation marks and the use of byelaws and directions with regard to the use of the Harbour. Within the defined Harbour limits the Commissioners have been created by Statute ‘Brightlingsea Harbour Act 1927’ to serve the public interest. The public interest is wider than that of Harbour users and includes the local community and natural environment, referred to as stakeholders. There is a public right to use the Harbour for the shipping and unshipping of goods and passengers, and there it is also a public right of navigation upon payment of Harbour dues and charges.
When did your interest in the sea first start?
My interest first developed at around 18 years old, myself and three friends purchased a 24ft ‘pirate ship’ looking leisure vessel (a Buckler Buccaneer) called ‘Doubloon’ for £250 one night in the local pub! The deal included five litres of diesel and three fishing rods! Together we knew very little about boats, but we did know it would make a great place to base summer activities from. It was a baptism of fire, and we all learnt a lot, mainly do not buy boats in the pub on a Friday night! What it really did teach us was (as Kenneth Grahame so eloquently put); “there is absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing, as simply messing about in boats”.
What were the highlights of your deep-sea career?
Without a doubt the highlight of my sea-going career would be navigating through the Northwest Passage on the RRS Ernest Shackleton from East to West, then returning West to East, escorting the Crystal Serenity, a 250m long, 68,000 tonne luxury cruise ship; it was the first time a ship of that size had passed through the Northwest Passage and it was an incredible experience to be part of.
What does a day in your life look like?
I get into the office at 0730 each morning and meet with the heads of each department to brief on that day’s operations. At 0800 the afloat operations team arrive and head out to start their duties, be it ferry, water taxi, or maintenance. I spend most of my morning working on staff rotas, training new starting staff and our apprentices in varying marine skills, organising commercial shipping movements with the Port of Brightlingsea, Shipping agents and our pilot boat crews and of course dealing with the unforeseen; such as a boat drifting free from its mooring overnight, or the occasional boat that has sprung a leak! In the afternoons I often find myself dealing with emails and calls with regards to projects we are currently working on.
Do you have any upcoming projects within Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners?
A number of projects, yes! To name a few; we have recently commissioned the build of a new pilot boat from Seaward Boats on the Isle of Wight, we have intention to build a new Ferry landing platform on the Southern side of the river, and within the next 4 years we intend to develop a berthing pontoon which is entirely powered by renewable energy.
What are the objectives of Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners?
The Commissioners have set the following objectives:
- Ensure sufficient water depth is established and maintained.
- Maintain similar mix and number of moorings.
- Establish dedicated area for visiting boats.
- Identify gaps in services and, where appropriate, either work with others to provide or provide ourselves.
- Work towards achieving relevant quality standards (e.g. ISO, Eco Port).
- Establish and maintain financial model which ensures sustainability, phased capital equipment replacement and a regular maintenance schedule.
- Maintain and build strong working relationships with all Harbour users and stakeholders.
- Provide value for money.
- To maintain, protect and enhance our natural environment.