Harbour Master Challenge: Newport/Cardiff/Barry/Port Talbot/Swansea

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I am grouping these 5 ports together as they are all owned and operated by Associated British Ports. We are talking big locks, big ships and big business. Did you know 95% of British trade goes through our ports? Tom Batchelor is the Deputy Harbour Master for the 5 ports.


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I was invited into the operations room at Cardiff where Tom overseas movements in and out of the ports plus 17 pilots operating 3 Pilot Boats based in Barry (see photo). Most ships over 85m in length are required to take a pilot on board before they venture up the Bristol Channel. We witnessed the Sail Training “Tall Ship” ROYALIST picking up their pilot mid channel…. the reason is, the ship had previously run aground on the mud above the Severn Bridge! (Google it!).
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Newport is the biggest of the five, trading a lot of steel. Interesting fact: When constructed, the lock width at Newport matched the width of the locks being built on the Panama canal, which to this day determines the maximum width of large ships. However at the last moment, Panama extended their width by 2 metres, and sadly Newport had already completed theirs, which now restricts which ships can enter.
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While Barry specialises in Chemicals, Port Talbot importing lower quality coal & exporting high grade coal, and Swansea (a 520 acre of port) aggregates; Cardiff handles a variety of cargo. In the photo you can see a large white RoRo ferry tied up, which I found out later is one of the ones hired by the government as a back up for post Brexit operations. Apparently it is sitting there, rather than at anchor, fully manned and ready to go. NB Tom did not tell me that! .
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My crew Ian and I sailed along the coast from Cardiff to Swansea, poking our bow into Barry on the way. Thank you Tom for a fascinating insight into British Industry – I think very few people have any idea what goes in and out of our ports. More info: http://www.abports.co.uk/Our_Locations/ .
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About the Harbour Master Sailing Challenge: I am circumnavigating #GB attempting to visit every #harbour with a #harbourmaster #fundraising to #support @Seafarers_UK and their work in the #martime industry, supporting #seafarersand their #families.