All About Aberdeen Marine Operations Centre
The Marine Operations Centre stands in a prominent position on the North Breakwater at the entrance of Aberdeen Harbour. Commissioned in 2006, it was the work of SMC Parr Architects Ltd and was built by Sir Robert McAlpine. The NorthLink Ferries ships to Shetland and Orkney sail past this distinctive modernist glass tower, and we are often asked what its purpose is.
We are exceptionally privileged to get a great view of the local marine wildlife – on a clear day, we can see birds taking flight as well as seals and otters bobbing above the water!
We asked Ewan Rattray, Deputy Harbour Master, who forms part of the Integrated Port Management team who are based in the Marine Operations Centre to tell us more.
Q. What does your job as Deputy Harbour Master involve?
A. My main role is to manage port marine safety from the Aberdeen Marine Operations Centre. This can vary hugely day-to-day, from managing our fantastic team of marine staff or assisting in the delivery of new marine projects, all the way to managing port emergencies and investigating marine incidents.
Q. The Marine Operations Centre is quite an eye-catching building – what is its purpose?
A. The Marine Operations Centre is a base of operations for Vessel Traffic Services, our Port Pilotage Service, and the Port Management team.
I suppose it could be described as the harbour equivalent of an air traffic control tower that you might see at an airport. The building was commissioned to replace the old control tower, known as the Roundhouse, which can still be seen down on the shores of Footdee.
That was the original base of operations for Aberdeen VTS and Aberdeen Pilots. VTS are an internationally recognised service who contribute to safe and efficient navigation, and the protection of the marine environment. Aberdeen VTS achieve this by collecting and analysing pertinent navigational information and use this information to organise traffic movements.
One of the most important jobs we do here is ensuring safe transit for any vessels into and through the port. To do this, our Marine Pilots will sometimes board a ship, take the conn and either steer the vessel or guide it safely through the harbour and over to its berth. The Ports’ Pilots specialise in expert local knowledge and have advanced ship handling skills.
Q. How many ships roughly move in and out of Aberdeen harbour daily?
A. It varies day-per-day, but including vessel shifts, last year there were roughly 21,000 vessel movements in total. Aberdeen Harbour serves a very wide variety of industries.
Q. How does the weather impact your role?
A. The weather in the North of Scotland isn’t always kind and can be challenging throughout the year. High winds have been known to push vessels off course, or choppy seas can prevent the safe boarding and landing of the Pilot. In the warmer months the warm air passing over cold seas can result in thick fog. Our team has specialist local knowledge and advanced ship handling skills. This ensures that we’re always able to do our jobs safely.
Q. Do you ever spot anything unusual or interesting from the tower?
A. We are exceptionally privileged to get a great view of the local marine wildlife. On a clear day, we can see birds taking flight as well as seals and otters bobbing above the water. There is also a pod of bottlenose dolphins which can be spotted off Torry Battery. This is a fantastic sight for people leaving or entering the Port of Aberdeen.
Orkney and Shetland fanatic, likes to capture life through a lens, loves creating, eclectic taste in music, enjoys being a Mum; would secretly love to be a star of the West End!