Prince of Wales Award – Study tour opens channel for Port accreditation

The opportunity to undertake a nine day study tour of shipping ports around Australia has paid dividends for Paul Thomas, as knowledge gained will assist his civilian employer secure coveted maritime industry accreditation.

As a valuable member of No 26 (City of Newcastle) Squadron Warrant Officer Thomas received funding to undertake the tour through the Defence Reserve Support’s Prince of Wales Award (POWA) Scheme.

POWA provides a development opportunity for Australian Defence Force (ADF) Reservists to enhance their individual experience and knowledge in their chosen civilian occupation or profession.

As a civilian, Paul works as a Vessel Traffic Service Officer at Newcastle Port. He undertook the study tour in October of four major Australian ports which are Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) Authorities.

“The Port Authority NSW - Newcastle (PANSW) currently operates as a Vessel Traffic Information Service and intends to progress to a VTS Authority in the near future,” he said.

“I am part of the project team tasked to transition Newcastle from Information Service level to a VTS Authority.”

A Vessel Traffic Information Service (VTS) operates as a “Local Port Service” and does not necessarily conform to all the international protocols and stringent requirements required by maritime industry authorities.

“This system does not have any “authority” over vessels operating within the area, other than that provided by the various Navigation Acts etcetera,” Paul said.

“Once authorised and accredited, the VTS has certain authority over vessels operating within the VTS area. Participation in the VTS is compulsory for all vessels operating in the VTS area.”

Newcastle Harbour is one of the world’s largest coal export ports, with coal representing more than 90 percent of total tonnage and accounting for 80 percent of vessel traffic, with the balance made up of cruise and general cargo.

The port manages some 4600 vessel movements per year, with the mix of cargos and vessels unique among Australian ports.

The intended outcome of the tour was for Paul to gain an in depth understanding of the various VTS centres and utilise that knowledge to assist with the preparation for accreditation as an authorised VTS.

“I visited Melbourne, Fremantle, Port Hedland and Townsville ports as part of the study tour. Having the opportunity to meet face to face with representatives from the various VTS Authorities provided me an opportunity to ask detailed questions on the transition process,” he said.

“The visit has helped me develop a clear pathway to formal accreditation and as such has proven to be of great benefit to my civilian employer.

“Another benefit that became apparent during the first day of the visit to Victorian Ports – Melbourne, was the opportunity to benchmark our current operation to the visit site’s operation.

“What became obvious as the visit progressed was that despite the differences in the various operations in terms of the physical layout of the ports and vessels serviced, the operation at Newcastle is well positioned in terms of processes and documentation.”

Paul encouraged all eligible Reservists to find out more about the POWA Scheme and apply.

“The information gained during the visit will provide immense benefit to the advancement of the VTS Accreditation project for PANSW – Newcastle,” he said.

“The tour has proven invaluable to me and my civilian employer.  I would recommend eligible Reservists make an application under the POWA Scheme.”

Royal Australian Air Force member, Warrant Officer Paul Thomas, with the Prince of Wales Award outside the RAAF Base Williamtown Sergeants' Mess.


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Last update: Friday, 14 December 2018

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