In Your Shoes:
Capt. Tom Hutchison, CEO & Harbour Master
As the son of the last lighthouse keeper in Scotland, there was no doubt that Tom was going to follow a nautical career. Growing up in Orkney, his love of the sea and ships grew deeper. He left home at 16 to work as a deckhand, sailing all over the world. Promoted to Master at the age of 25, he regularly visited Montrose port during his travels.
In 2000, the Board of Trustees offered him a job as a pilot, and in 2015, the position of Harbour Master. He took over as CEO in 2019, although still retains the role of Harbour Master. Until recently, he was also Operations Manager for Montrose Lifeboat Station.
Monday: Out at sea
During lockdown, we’ve been starting each week with a team call via Zoom so that we can all get together and keep everybody updated on operations at the port. Working remotely is new to us, like many businesses, but it has been very successful so far and these team calls have proved very important.
We go over what vessel movements we have coming up this week, as well as any other business. We’re a busy port with lots happening just now, so it’s good for the whole team to have an overview of the overall operation.
Then it’s out on the pilot boat to assess Ross, one of our new pilots who joined us late last year, as part of his ongoing training and development. We go out to meet an incoming vessel which we then board and I supervise as Ross navigates it safely into port and demonstrates his ship handling skills. The navigation channel at Montrose is particularly challenging and it can take a while to learn the ropes despite many years of experience. Obviously, this will be slightly different from a normal assessment as, at this time, we’re careful to follow social distancing guidance. As Chief Executive and Harbour Master, I enjoy getting to be ‘hands on’ in terms of getting out on the varying types of vessels and helping our pilots develop practical nautical skills.
Tuesday - Seagreen work starts
Today sees the start of demolition work on the south quay at the port as we start to get ready for construction work later in the year.
In October last year, we were awarded a 25-year contract from Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) to be the maintenance and operations base for the Seagreen offshore wind farm which will be situated approximately 25 nautical miles east of the port. This reflects our consistently flexible approach and long-term diversification strategy, but also represents an outstanding opportunity for the local supply chain network and will result in the creation of a number of jobs in the area. In addition, it will also ensure ongoing investment and re-development of our existing facilities in line with our remit and legislative obligation as a trust port.
This is a huge win, not just for us, but for Montrose and the wider economy and I am excited to see the first steps today.
Wednesday: Working from home with SmartPort
Today I’m working from home to catch up on emails and get ready for our Board meeting tomorrow. During this time, I’ve also been constantly on the phone to stakeholders offering support and advice as we quite often have to find new ways of working while adhering to the new, albeit temporary, Scottish Government guidelines. I like to have an overview of everything that’s going on and feel that we’ve all pulled together to make the best of the current situation.
We’re lucky in that we moved from our traditional manual whiteboard method to an online system called ION Marlin SmartPortTM at the start of the year. We are the first port in the UK to use this software and it means I can now log on to my laptop at home and see the movements for the day, while having all of our port control features at my fingertips. This has been invaluable during this current time of lockdown and, effectively, means some staff can work from home although, obviously, we still have a number of key staff who are responsible for piloting incoming and outgoing vessels, as well as those working on the quayside. The port is a key part of the supply chain, so, despite the current situation, it’s very much business as usual.
Thursday: Board meeting and Clap for Carers
Normally, our Board meets monthly at the Port, but as with everything just now we are conducting our meetings via Zoom.
Our board members come from across Angus and Aberdeenshire and from a variety of backgrounds. We are lucky to have this wealth of experience and it has really helped us a Trust Port to make the most of the knowledge and skills we have at our disposal. With many important projects occurring within the port at this time, it’s great to be able to have this guidance and ongoing communication with them.
As always, Thursday evenings see the vessels in harbour sound their horns and lead the clap for carers at 8pm. We’ve done this now since the lockdown began and have had so many great comments from the local community saying that it’s become an important focus for the town throughout this time. It’s great to be the focal point for this and to play our part in keeping community spirit buoyed.
Friday: Out in the community
This morning I paid a visit to Peter Davidson at Montrose Community Trust. We’ve long supported the work Peter and his team do and recently donated £3,000 to help them provide essential support to the most vulnerable during the current COVID-19 crisis.
Along with others, this particular organisation has been tremendous throughout lockdown providing support to our local community in the form of essential transport and food distribution, as well as support and assistance.
We’ve printed off some copies of MPA’s activity pack which we launched recently to help families keep kids entertained during lockdown. I dropped these off to Peter and he will distribute them to families he meets when out distributing meals.
We round off the week with a team quiz via Zoom on Friday afternoon which, again, just keeps our close team motivated and in touch with each other as well as having some well deserved fun !
Lockdown has presented us with a few challenges, as I’m sure it has everyone, but I think Montrose Port Authority has played an important part in helping to keep the supply chain moving as well as providing some community spirit throughout. I can say with certainty that this is due to the great team I have around me and their dedication and hard work.
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