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First hand storm experience for visiting Harbour Master

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 10:00 a.m.

Solomon Islands Harbour Master Billy Bobby has had a bit more than he bargained for when he arrived in Tauranga for his two week experience in New Zealand waters.

His visit, organised by Maritime NZ as part of a regular programme to increase knowledge and capability for our Pacific neighbours, has come in the midst of Cyclone Pam, and it means he’s been able to see how our maritime services operate during a major storm.

Mr Bobby’s job back in Honiara is a one man band – he’s the Harbour Master, pilots the tug and works for the Port Authority. Last month he was delivering a ship to Japan.

While the Solomons were not affected by Cyclone Pam, he’s seen the destruction in Vanuatu and other island nations.

He’s been a seaman for 20 years and has always loved the sea. It’s all he’s ever wanted to do since he was a boy. The visit will allow him to observe and learn operations in New Zealand coastal waters.

The Pacific mentoring programme is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is administered by Skills NZ.

It allows a Pacific-based maritime officer to be attached to the Tauranga Harbour Master's Office and the Port of Tauranga. Mr Bobby works with the Harbour Master’s office for a few days, as an understudy for Port of Tauranga pilots and tug masters for ship navigation and berthing.

The programme will show the Honiara Harbour Master Port operations, practices and procedures in a busy New Zealand port. He will be piloting and berthing vessels in and out of the Port by day and night, as well as learning plenty from his counterparts in Tauranga.

At the end of his secondment he’ll have more awareness of port operations, practices and processes that he can adapt for Honiara.  This knowledge will be invaluable in increasing safety at his home port, as well as developing valuable networks for the future.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Regional Harbour Master Peter Buell said the programme was invaluable in boosting the skills of Pacific-based staff. Last year the participant was the Harbour Master for the Port of Avatiu, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

“As well as showing him the work we do here in Tauranga we will also be taking him to Rotorua Lakes and looking at the differences there, and to Whakatane. And getting here during a storm will be useful learning.”

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