Like the tugboats they’re working on, the newest members of Eastland Port’s tight-knit marine team exude a sense of gritty purpose, and their boss couldn’t be happier.
“We respect people that can tie knots and splice ropes – we couldn’t care less what you can do on your PlayStation,” says Eastland Port Marine Manager Capt Chris Kaye.
Capt Kaye is talking about Tawhao Stewart 19, Keaghan Hartshorne 20, and Jarrod Bennett, 22, who were employed as deckhands last month – the first marine team recruits for nearly a decade.
He says the steadfast young men beat over 80 applicants for the learn-as-you-earn positions. Now they’re living out every young boy’s dream helping muscle 150 oceangoing log ships into position at Eastland Port every year.
“This job is the holy grail of maritime jobs and these three young men will in time come to appreciate what they’ve been offered,” says Capt Kaye. “Port marine jobs don’t come up very often, particularly permanent ones.”
Tawhao (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), Keaghan (Rahui, Ngati Porou), and Jarrod, carry out a range of duties on Eastland Port’s two tugs Titirangi and Waimata. They assist in keeping the vessels maintained, clean, and seaworthy, and are well versed in dealing with any emergencies that occur.
But it’s when the tugs are exerting their brute force to tug mammoth ships into position that the three new deckhands are happiest. “Throwing ropes, tying knots, being the eyes and ears of the tug master, it’s a whole world that wasn’t known to me, like nothing I have ever done before,” says Tawhao.
Keaghan: “It’s an incredible industry and I can see it taking me places.”
Jarrod: “I’d already been to sea, fishing for a few years, but this way there’s a huge variety of roles and I can be closer to family.”
Capt Kaye says if the young men continue showing the levels of initiative and leadership they’ve already demonstrated, there’s no reason why they couldn’t study to become tug masters. “All we want is for the ships to come in safely, and everyone here is enjoying seeing these three young men succeed. If they want to be tug masters then we’d help them through. We’ve recruited for attitude – we’ll train for aptitude.”
Eastland Port’s marine team now has two pilots (and one reliever), four engineers, four tug boat masters, three launch masters, and five deckhands.