At the end of November 2013 I travelled to Aberdeen in North East Scotland for a reunion of the Robert Gordon’s School of Navigation Master’s (Foreign Going) class of 1969. It was also 50 years, almost to the day, since I had collected my brand new 2nd Mate’s Certificate on one of the most momentous days in modern history (the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd 1963).
It was good to meet up with these old friends again, all of us much older and wiser (?) and having witnessed a sea change in our industry in the intervening years. In our days deep sea, we had sailed with a variety of some famous old companies (liner and tramp); most have now passed into the pages of history. Sadly some of our classmates have also now ‘crossed the bar’ – we raised a glass and remembered them fondly.
After a few drinks we sat down to dinner and shared tales of the companies we served all these years ago. The ships we sailed on and the ports of call, the characters who were our shipmates; and the adventures – good and bad. We had our wives with us, but they of course had on occasion sailed with us on these voyages and so understood our common bond and how life at sea was in the 1960s. Some of my classmates from that time had graduated to the offshore gas and oil industry out of Aberdeen – some at sea, others in shore management.
The importance of the offshore industry to both local and national economies is realised in a tangible way by a visit to Aberdeen’s very busy harbour. In my days it was a bustling port, but also the base for the then thriving fishing industry. Back then, and when I was on my way home on leave to Keith (Banffshire), waiting for a connecting train in the early hours, I used to visit the fish market. This was always a scene of great activity, noise and deals and I used to enjoy a big mug of tea and a ‘hot buttery’/’rowie’ (delicious flaky morning roll) whilst soaking up the atmosphere. The great days of fishing have also passed and the busy harbour is now dominated by the many powerful supply boats serving the offshore industry. These vessels now represent a hugely important sector of our industry. There is also an important Aberdeen Marine Training Centre run by Petrofac, delivering a range of industry accredited and bespoke marine training courses targeted at the offshore oil and gas and maritime industries.
Before leaving ‘The Granite City’ I visited the fine Maritime Museum which covers the long and proud history of the port, and its transition from the halcyon days of shipbuilding and fishing to the vital role it now plays in the offshore oil and gas industries.
The memorable meeting with old friends, mixed with the sheer buzz and vitality around Aberdeen Harbour itself, made this a visit to be remembered.
As we enter a new year, the Sea Breezes team extend our very best wishes to all our readers for a happy and healthy 2014.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR