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Jerry Drewett  “The Work of the Harbour Master”

Mr Drewitt gave an interesting & amusing talk about his job as Harbour Master at Teesport, illustrated with copious photographs & amusing anecdotes.


Jerry has been Harbour Master at Teesport for the last ten years. He started his career at sea on BP tankers before taking a shore job first on the Firth of Forth & then at Teesport, more than ten of these as Harbourmaster.


Cargo ships have been using the Tees since mediaeval times, with ships taking several days to reach the earliest docks at Yarm. In the last century, the Mandale Cut, half -tide barriers to define the channel & extensive dredging have enabled progressively larger boats to use the Tees.  Teesport is one of the largest ports in the United Kingdom with more than 30 million tons of cargo passing through the port each year.  These cargoes include steel( & the iron ore & coal to make it), refined petroleum, petrochemicals, potash, cars ( both import & export ) & general cargo for retail.  It covers a large area, several square miles, stretching from Hartlepool to Redcar, upstream as far as the Tees Barrage & twelve miles out to sea. To complicate the anchorage for shipping there are shore terminals for both oil & gas pipelines within Tees Bay & a wind turbine farm under construction.


However, Jerry claims that his port is easier to manage than many since it has only large commercial ships crewed by professionals who comply automatically with the port authority instructions; whereas smaller ports with many small boats crewed by amateurs, many of whom hold strong opinions, require bye -laws to enforce control.


Teesport is fortunate that some 30 years ago strategic decisions were taken to provide a fully dredged channel, jetties for tankers to berth & quaysides for bulk & container cargoes. Large warehouses have been built recently for Tesco & ASDA to facilitate distribution of imports for retail. Expansion of the port is currently in progress to permit even larger container vessels to use Teesport.  Most importantly, alongside the commercial activity, the environment of the Tees estuary has to be conserved.


There are several bird & seal sanctuaries & Sites of Scientific Interest, all of which must be protected & nurtured. The task of the Harbour Master is interesting but both busy & varied.

A vote of thanks was proposed by David Houston.