My work organised a visit to Aberdeen Harbour‘s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) tower, which was really interesting. VTS, like air traffic control at an airport, controls all the movements of ships in/out and within the harbour.
The control tower is right at the harbour entrance / exit, and commands a great view. Here we’re looking toward the south-west, with Torry in view across the mouth of the river Dee. The little round tower is the old navigation tower.
And over to the east is the North pier (on our left), and the old South breakwater and new South breakwater to our right.
Round the back there’s a children’s playground with it’s own little boat, which I thought was quite sweet.
We were given an informal talk and had all our questions answered, and we learnt lots of interesting things, like Aberdeen Harbour was established in 1136 and is Britain’s oldest business.
Quite soon after we arrived we saw the UKD Marlin heading out. This is a dredger, which has been clearing out the bottom of the harbour after a lot of build up over the bad winter weather. Apologies for the reflection off the windows.
I don’t know what it is about ships, but they’re just so nice to look at. My office is beside one of the harbour docks, and we never get tired of looking at the ships. Airplanes are big, sleek, and beautiful, but I think they’re sometimes a little sterile and samey. Ships on the other hand have so much detail in open view, and they just seem to have a little more character about them. From this vantage point, seeing them come in slowly from the distance was also really quite therapeutic.
Next up was a standby safety vessel, Grampian Defender.
Then we headed right to the top, to the control room itself.
The view was even better up here.
From here we saw a container vessel, Gerarda, head out with the pilot boat Sea Haven beside her.
Those of you who’ve seen the BBC One Scotland series The Harbour will be familiar with what the pilot does. For those who aren’t, basically the idea is that someone trained locally knows the habour and the waters best, so vessels over a certain size coming in or going out must have an Aberdeen Harbour pilot on board. They go out in the little pilot boats and pull up next to the ship. The pilot then jumps across (sometimes literally) to the other ship, and gives instructions to the helmsman in order to bring in the vessel safely. Same thing on the way out, they lead the ship out, and then jump back into their pilot boat to head back to the harbour.
In this case, the pilot jumped out of the Gerarda, into the pilot boat, and back out again into the next vessel waiting to come in.
Also at this point the weather turned a bit, and the seagulls suddenly thought they were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
A little fishing boat, Boy Gordon, comes in while the pilot is sorting out the other vessels.
And now the Far Service, the supply vessel waiting earlier, comes in.
And with that, all too soon, it was time to go.