Wharfside workers on task

This article has photo gallery Published on Department of Defence (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Topic(s): Fleet Base East

Port Services Manager - Fleet Base East,
Commander Ian Gray stands on the wharf at Garden Island, Sydney. (photo: Unknown)
Port Services Manager - Fleet Base East, Commander Ian Gray stands on the wharf at Garden Island, Sydney.

While many Australians enjoy a break from work over Christmas, the hard working Navy team of Port Services, Garden Island, in Sydney, will continue to deliver essential services to keep the Defence vessels that dominate Sydney Harbour berthed and slipped. 

The organisation is responsible for all day to day management of all port issues, including berth allocation, provision of support craft services and arranging wharf side services for visiting ships.

Port Services Manager, Commander Ian Gray said the team will be split into two watches to manage Garden Island to enable the team to each spend time with family and friends.

“We have a small team to manage the berthing arrangements of ships across 10 wharves and four buoys,” Commander Gray said.

Getting the ships there from Sydney Heads is often also his role, as the Navy Maritime Pilot charged with maneuvering foreign ships through the Harbour.

As a highly experienced ship-handler with detailed knowledge of the waterway, he advises Navigators and Captains on depth, direction and strength of the wind, current and tide.

“Over the holiday period, while we’ll try and minimise the work load, there’s still tasks to be done. We have two non-Navy ships berthing and important maintenance will continue,” Commander Gray said.

“We may also need to store [ships] for potential humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations and, are responsible for some of the set up for vantage points for the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks.”

Being adaptable is key to what is fundamentally “a customer service organisation” Commander Gray said. 

“We need to balance competing interests, which can range from contractual arrangements with external companies, to ship maintenance periods and operational program changes."

“When ship programs change, this is when you see ultra flexibility in Port Services."

“It can be like a game of Tetris® with blocks dropping fast.  You can’t push something in early or have a ship leave later, without having a series of effects."

“We do our best and the small team works hard. They’ve done a great job this year and will continue to meet the demands placed upon them into the New Year,” Commander Gray said.

The highly skilled team includes boatswain’s mates, marine and electronics technicians and logistics sailors who are trained in a number of disciplines that take them outside their traditional seagoing roles.

The team have crane, forklift and cherry picker licences to drive heavy plant equipment around a working wharf.

Wharf Supervisor Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Box coordinates craning operations on the wharf and said it’s a daily challenge but one the team welcomes.

“Each job is always different as you don’t know what to expect and you need to be able to assess a request and ensure you have all the right equipment,” he said.

The tasks involve the set up of power and sewage connections from ships to the wharf, and being the berthing party to assist in gangway connection and disconnection on arrival and departure.

“Determining what craning gear is required to get stores and equipment on and off ships is a bit on art, as all of them have different requirements,” he said.
In addition, when foreign vessels are in port, the team support crews for their stay in Sydney with information on local activities, suppliers and events.

For more information on the Navy ships that berth in Sydney – check out the following link to the Fleet on the Navy website: http://www.navy.gov.au/fleet/ships-boats-craft