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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > People > Profiles > Handling the harbour

Bill Chambers, Weymouth's harbour master

Handling the harbour

When Bill Chambers retired from the Navy, he decided to become a harbour master. He came to Weymouth wanting challenge and he's not been disappointed. Dealing with a beached barge and the future prospect of the Olympics on his watch.

Bill took up the post in January 2007 after 35 years in the Navy. He worked as a seaman officer and spent much of his time abroad in Oman, Antigua, Naples and as part of the NATO mission in Iraq.

When asked how different his new job is compared to his old occupation Bill said, "Well they don't fire mortars at me here".

Weymouth Harbour

Weymouth Harbour

He insists that many of the skills needed to ensure successful operations in Iraq are proving highly useful in Weymouth – planning, organisation and being able to cope with the unexpected.

The brief is this; ensuring the navigational safety of vessels using Weymouth Harbour, to maintain the facilities and to run the harbour as efficiently as possible on behalf of its owner, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

On day one in the job, Bill Chambers was confronted with what to do with a barge which had run aground off Preston Beach. The 100ft barge "Longsands" beached in autumn 2007 and hadn't moved since.

It presented a major hazard to shipping. Although not an environmental hazard because the vessel's fuel had been removed, the ship was a blot on the seascape. Bill spent much of his time negotiating its removal.

"Our aim (of the Olympics) is to set the conditions for success"

Bill Chambers, Weymouth harbour master

Bill has responsibility for 600 berths and 150 more for visiting vessels. The summer months are very busy and it can be a job to fit all the boats into the floating car-park. Many have to raft-up next to each other and boat owners hop across each other's craft to reach dry land. 

Bill said, "The harbour is surrounded by different characters, each with their own private agenda and it's getting to know each and every stakeholder around the harbour and making sure that whatever goes on here is properly coordinated and run efficiently".

Bill's patch extends out into Portland harbour and east along the coast. This means when the Olympics come to town, many of the sailing events will be happening in the waters he patrols.

Harbour master's launch

A team of 12 patrol the harbour.

The prospect of the Olympics is very exciting for him and it’s one of the reasons why he took the job. He said "Our aim is to set the conditions for success".

Success to Bill isn't necessarily more gold medals for Britain's sailors but ensuring the games pass off safely.

That means ensuring the racing yachts have a safe passage from the shore to the designated sailing areas in Weymouth Bay so they are not in the way of the commercial traffic such as the Condor ferry and the fishing vessels.

Bill's predecessor Captain David Stabler remained in the job for 14 years and according to Bill, he handed over the harbour in a "pretty good condition".

It's Bill's plan to ensure that when it's his time to go he can do the same but with the added bonus of having safely seen off the world's greatest competition – the Olympics.

  • Update - Bill decided to leave the job in October 2008 to work for NATO - full story from BBC News:

last updated: 06/10/2008 at 10:45
created: 02/07/2008

You are in: Dorset > People > Profiles > Handling the harbour

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