I’ve been working in Port Hedland on the Tugs for 38 years and for the last 26 years I’ve been working on the Coongan. I first heard about this job along the grapevine, at the time I was working out of Hedland and Broome on the supply ships that service the oil rigs. On one of my visits into Hedland I ran into a friend who told me there was a new tug coming up, so I began working the tugs, the Adelaide Steamships. My wife and I bought the family up to Port Hedland, most of the kids were high school age, and a couple were in primary school. I’ve got five boys; one is working on the tugs in Hedland, one in supply ships in Dampier and one on the tugs in Adelaide.
We move ships in and out of the harbour. Once the ships come in after steaming along the ocean and they get into confined areas like the harbour, with the tide and all of those things, they really don’t have full control, so the tugs have got to be there to turn them, to push them onto the wharf and pull them off the wharf; to assist with the berthing. The tug numbers have doubled since I first started, there used to be six tugs and we would do 20 jobs a week, and now you’re doing five to eight jobs a day, plus, there are other tugs working and doing jobs.
It’s been a good job, good blokes to work with; we see whales outside the harbour regularly, they come up alongside the tugs, there are also porpoises, manta rays, and flying fish. I fly back and forth and I usually do a month at a time, so I’m in Hedland six months and in Perth six months. I’ve been doing that for years now.