Twelve months ago I joined Trinity House as an Operations Officer after 13 years as a police officer in the MET undertaking various roles, including working in a multi-agency control centre. Working in London and commuting every day impacted greatly on my family life and I was looking for a new career closer to home.
Living in Harwich I have always had some interest in port and shipping operations and when I saw the Operations Officer role at Trinity House advertised, I thought I would give it a go. I was not expecting to be successful, due to my lack of maritime experience, and was very pleased to be offered an interview with the Planning Manager, Operations Team Leader and HR. The interview went well and I was very surprised and excited to be offered the position.
On joining Trinity House I had to undergo eight weeks training, which involved shadowing experienced colleagues and making myself aware of operational procedures. This was a steep learning curve, but I found my skills and experience of control room operations with the police to be transferrable into the new role.
The Operations Officer position is very important to the safety of vessels at sea around the UK and Irish coast. It entails the monitoring of all aids to navigation, including lighthouses, buoys and lightvessels, and liaising with internal departments from all Trinity House locations and external bodies including HM Coastguard, UK Hydrographic Office and port authorities.
In addition, we coordinate a response to any dangers to navigation (such as shipwrecks) and, outside of normal office hours, monitoring and liaising with Northern Lighthouse Board (Scotland) and Irish Lights with regard to their aids to navigation.
The job is based around twelve-hour shifts, covering 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, working alone the majority of the time. Although working alone, I do feel a valued member of the Planning team, who we assist with the organisation of repairs to and maintenance of aids to navigation.
Although my training was comprehensive, I did have some situations—and on occasion still have—that the training did not prepare me for. Very early on I had to deal with three potentially serious issues, within a short space of time. All lighthouses and buoys have alarms that generate on the monitoring system if there is a problem. Within the space of an hour three alarms went off, which—if not handled correctly—could endanger shipping. However, I was not alone in dealing with this as, after coming up with a plan of action, I was able to speak with an off duty team member who reassured me that I was doing everything correctly.
As well as having occasional stressful experiences such as this, I have also had some very enjoyable ones. I have been able to visit a number of lighthouses and travel on our vessels, which has taught me a lot about how different departments work and interact with my role.