Monday, 10th December 2018

A new programme to train the next generation of port operations professionals has launched to acclaim at South Shields Marine School.

Apprentices from three Associated British Ports-operated ports (ABP) across the UK have joined the school for two academic terms of instruction through the Port Marine Operations Officer course.

The classroom-based learning forms as essential component of their three-year Port Operations Officer apprenticeships, which they are taking with ABP in Southampton, Ipswich and Immingham, Humberside.

The level 4 apprenticeship gives instruction in shipping and port operations, including lock and dock, mooring boat, health and safety and navigational safety to people working for a port operator.

It also teaches the roles and responsibilities of Berthing Master, Dock Masters and deputies, Harbour Masters and their assistants, all positions within a port’s marine operations team who assist in ensuring the safe transit and handling of vessels.

Port Marine Operations Officers work as leaders or members of a port or harbour team and may be involved in the berthing of vessels, port control and marine services, operation of harbours and marinas, and conservancy.

The apprenticeship can lead to specialist and senior roles including Berthing Masters, port management, Assistant Harbour Master, Assistant Dock Masters, Hydrographer, and Vessel Traffic Services.

Other aspects of an officer’s work can include environmental protection, statutory compliance and operation of harbour marine craft within the Harbour Authority area of jurisdiction.

Those to have started the course are Izzy Waterfall, 23, an apprentice at ABP’s Ipswich port, Matt Rattenbury, 20, and Gar-Wai Wong, 21, both at Southampton, and Elliott Jones, 21, Joe Dickinson and Alex Holliday, both 23, and Will Parker, 24, at Immingham.

Jon Milner, Head of School – Deck Officer Certification at South Shields Marine School, said the apprenticeship required rigorous and substantial training, typically of between 24 to 30 months, depending on experience and qualifications at entry.

He added: “This is an important new qualification for this marine school to be undertaking and adds to the broad spectrum of maritime training we have available.

“Land-based port operations specialists are a vitally important part of this country’s maritime industry, and this programme delivers some of the essential training they require to complete their apprenticeship and progress their careers.

“The roles that these apprentices will aim to move into are highly responsible positions in which they will make key contributions to the safe and efficient operation of the harbour.

“But they are also very challenging roles which involve shift working and working in all environments, meaning a particular skills-set is required.

“I am pleased that South Shields Marine School has taken on the challenge of delivering this very important part of their overall apprenticeship.”

Matt, who along with Alex are the only apprentices to be on their second year of training, said: “There have been several subject areas that we have touched on at South Shields Marine School that are new to me.

“These include celestial navigation, but we are also doing things like law studies, ship construction, and communications which are very interesting and beneficial. It’s proving to be a very good and interesting course.”

Izzy added: “It’s really good to be training alongside other people from ABP port and to be doing so at this marine school.

“The ports that we work at all operate in slightly different ways and have different areas that they specialise in, despite many crossover elements. It is good to be learning with people who are experiencing slightly different things in their work.”

And Gar-Wai, who did two weeks’ work experience with ABP at Southampton while in Year 10 at school, said: “I very much like the learning at South Shields Marine School.

“The bridge watchkeeping element of the course has been my favourite so far, it involves learning about how ships manoeuvre and even though I won’t be involved in that at port, it still helps me to know it.

“Different ports do different operations, and this course is giving us good instruction in many important areas.”

Master mariner Amanda Viljoen, Group Marine Training and Apprenticeship Programs Manager at ABP, said: “ABP is committed to building a competent, talented succession pipeline.

“The Port Marine Operations Officer and Pilot Trailblazers apprenticeships are one way in which we are able to do this.”

Course fees at South Shields Marine School vary depending on whether the employer pays the Apprenticeship levy or is a non-levy payer.

More information is available by contacting Simon Ashton at

More information on South Shields Marine School’s provision is available at or calling 0191 427 3500.



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