10/12/2018 09:30 AM
Q&A: Sydney’s Harbour Master
The biggest ships in Sydney Harbour and Port Botany have to share their space with some of the smallest. Here’s Sydney Harbour Master Philip Holliday on his role and what recreational boaters should do to stay safe on the water.
What’s the role of a Harbour Master?
Harbour Masters help ensure the safety and security of all vessels operating in port waters by managing and implementing port guidelines, regulations and operations.
The waterways in Sydney Harbour and Port Botany are some of the busiest in the country so my role brings a new challenge every day.
There could be operational issues requiring an immediate response, strategic issues requiring careful planning, as well as the day-to-day work of overseeing our marine operations teams working out on the water
Image: Philip Holliday - Sydney Harbour Master
How are the biggest ships brought into the ports?
The large ships that visit our ports are assisted by Port Authority’s marine pilots. Our marine pilots are highly skilled and experienced master mariners with a detailed knowledge of local conditions. No ship captain could know the right approach for every port in the world, so this is really vital work.
Our Sydney marine pilots head out to sea on our cutter vessels to meet ships outside of port. They board the ship by climbing a rope ladder, head to the bridge and help the captain navigate a safe passage in and out of port — all while the cutter vessel escorts the ship in.
It’s challenging work — especially when the seas are rough — but each year our pilots and cutter vessel crew perform thousands of transfers, day or night, rain or shine.
Image: Hundreds of small vessels share Sydney Harbour with some of the biggest
What makes this work unique in Sydney?
Sydney Harbour and Port Botany are some of the busiest waterways in the country and they get busier every year, all while the ships that visit our shores keep on getting bigger.
When you see the size of some of these container and cruise ships, you’ll understand why there’s so much effort focused on making sure they can safely transit through our ports.
Their sheer size makes them difficult to manoeuvre, they’re slow going to stop and, even though everyone should see them, it can be harder for these ships to spot all the smaller vessels out on the water.
These ships share the water with hundreds of vessels on any given day, which means we have to be even more vigilant to ensure we all stay safe.
Image: Some of the ships in Sydney Harbour are the length of four rugby fields and the height of the Opera House
How can recreational boaters help keep Sydney Harbour and Port Botany safe for all vessels?
The simplest advice is to stay aware and always keep a lookout for seagoing ships. Determine their speed and direction, always keep your distance from large vessels — at least 30 metres — and act early if you think one is coming your way.
These ships move through established shipping channels, so make yourself aware of where these areas are and stay away from the channels when they’re passing through. And whatever you do, never anchor in the channels — it won’t just put you in harm’s way, it’s also illegal under the NSW Marine Safety Act
Another important thing is to never pass between the ship and the escort vessel leading it through the channels. Follow these simple steps and you’ll help us make sure you and everyone else on the harbour stays safe.
How can recreational boaters stay aware of what’s happening on the harbour?
Before you head out for the day, check the daily vessel movements on the Port Authority website to find out the shipping schedule for the day.
When on the water, keep tuned in to the 24/7 safety channel operated by our Sydney vessel traffic services (VTS) centre. It’s VHF channel 13 for Sydney Harbour and VHF 12 for Port Botany.
Our VTS team monitor the waterways 24/7 through a network of radars, CCTV and communications systems, so they’re able to keep up to date and broadcast any important information you need to know about.
Why have you launched the ‘look out, ships about’ campaign?
Our marine team has a passion for the water and we understand we share our place of work with the thousands of people who enjoy Sydney Harbour and Port Botany every week.
We’ve launched our campaign to let recreational boaters, sailors, kayakers, paddle boarders and anybody else who is out and about on the water understand the simple steps they should take to keep safe near seagoing ships
Working on the water is just like the ocean — no two days are ever the same — and we want to make sure we can share this space safely with everyone.
Find out more about how to stay safe near seagoing ships