Last week was Maritime UK Week – an opportunity to update, promote and educate on the opportunities, challenges and complexities of a wide and varied industry.
In Plymouth, events organised by the Port Authority have seen hundreds of people visit the port and to learn about the operations that take place in the Port of Plymouth. From climbing Pilot ladders to board merchant ships, harbour tours for interested stakeholders and businesses as well as an opportunity to learn more about marine apprentices around the harbour, and the business side of maritime trade through Plymouth University visits from the Maritime Business Department.
To end the week of activities we highlight one of the least known, but vital parts of the jigsaw in the day to day operations of the Port. 24 hrs a day 365 days a year a control tower known as Long Room Port Control, situated just above Millbay Docks keeps watch on the approaches and waters within the Port of Plymouth.
A team of highly skilled operators work within the station, with the main roles including:
- provide timely and relevant information on factors that may influence the transit of a ship and to assist on-board decision making;
- monitor and manage traffic to ensure the safety and efficiency of ship movements; and
- respond to developing unsafe situations to assist the on-board decision-making process.
In other words, like Air Traffic Control but for ships! The operators who keep watch over Plymouth Sound have undertaken extensive training to be able to work in a VTS station.
There are many jobs within the maritime industry here in Plymouth, from Port staff, the docks and quays, autonomy, leisure, and the thousands these front line jobs support indirectly, but one career path that often slips under the radar is one working in VTS. One of the VTS managers who is a key component in all water based movements discussed how she used to work at sea in the Merchant Navy, and when the time was right to come ashore working in VTS offered all the training necessary, and a clear line of career progression whilst still providing a good work life balance. Other members of the team come from a wide range of backgrounds, but with the thorough training programmes provided a VTS officer is definitely worthy of consideration if looking at a career in maritime.
As Maritime UK Week draws to a close it has been rewarding to see Port operations opened up to the public, specifically to the younger generations who have been able to learn more about work opportunities in the maritime industry here in Plymouth.