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  • 12/03/2019 09:39 AM

    Q&A: meet Sydney’s marine operations manager

    Hundreds of vessels, changing seas and wild weather: here’s Phil Azzopardi, Sydney’s marine operations manager, on how his team works on the water to keep our harbours ship shape and incident free.

    What do Port Authority’s marine operations teams do?
    Our primary function is to help keep the ports of New South Wales safe and secure. Safety is our biggest overriding factor — there is no compromise — and our marine operations teams are out on the water of our working ports every day to make sure the ports stay that way.

    It’s a high stakes game. We’re not only looking out for the safety of the big commercial vessels but for the all the other boats on the water, the harbour infrastructure, the marine environment and, of course, the people who use our working harbours.

    Image: Phil Azzopardi, Sydney’s marine operations manager, in front of Port Authority vessels

    What defines a working port or harbour?
    Put simply, it’s a harbour with a commercial focus such as trade and cargo. But really, it means a lot more than that. It’s how commercial activities work alongside other enterprises and users: from businesses that rely on the water like marinas and boatyards to recreation such as sailing and events through to ferries. Look out on the busy waterways and everything going on is all part of the working harbour. It’s our job to ensure it all works harmoniously.

    Our working ports are essential to our everyday life — we couldn’t do without them! That’s why we do what we do — to get out on the water every day to ensure our ports continue to operate safely and efficiently.

    How does your team achieve this?
    Our teams are comprised of a number of marine experts working in different fields. We have our marine pilots and their teams assisting ships in and out of the ports; our port officers working on our vessels on the water and responding to incidents; our dangerous goods teams making sure ships and procedures are compliant and our hydrographic survey division who scan the seafloor to make sure shipping channels are clear.

    And we couldn’t do all this without our teams working behind the scenes: our vessel traffic services who communicate across the ports and the teams who provide all this essential information to mariners.

    Crew at Port BotanyImage: Members of Port Authority's marine operations team return from working on the water at Port Botany

    What could an average day look like for you and your team?
    There’s no average day! We could be out on the water assisting large vessels as they head in or out of port; responding to incidents such as fires, pollution or oil spills; assisting vessels in need of help; overseeing the refuelling of visiting ships; heading out for on-water security patrols or ensuring all of our navigation aids are in good working condition.

    On a quieter day, we could be maintaining our fleet of vessels, reviewing procedures or planning for big public events such as New Year’s Eve or Australia Day.

    My role is like a like a conductor: guiding and assisting all these aspects of our water-based operations in Sydney Harbour and Port Botany.

    Image: Phil inspects a Port Authority cutter vessel: used to assist over 1,200 large vessels safely into Sydney Harbour each year

    What are some of the challenges of working on the water?
    We work in a dynamic, ever-changing environment across a large geographic area. Not only are our harbours busy with all kinds of recreational and commercial vessels and equipment using the water for all kinds of purposes but we must also contend with rapidly changing weather and sea-state conditions.

    When circumstances can change just like that, our team has to have the correct skills and equipment to adapt and respond to the situation.

    Another big challenge is working with all the other users of the harbour and making sure we’re meeting their needs as well as ensuring they’re working within port procedures.

    What’s the best thing about a career in the working harbour?

    It has to be the unbelievable variety we experience each day and finding solutions to all kinds of situations.

    It’s so stimulating to use your accumulated knowledge and experience to ensure something as complex as a working harbour can operate without incident. It’s valuable work and as a plus, we get to work in our beautiful harbours every day — it really does not get any better!

    Find out more about the working ports and harbours of New South Wales