AN EASTER Ross port that is enjoying record-breaking trade in the burgeoning cruise liner business has made two new appointments to help steer things in the right direction.
Port of Cromarty Firth has recruited two new marine officer pilots to help manoeuvre ships in what is the Highlands’ largest port.
Ben Thompson is the Invergordon port’s newest marine officer, having started as a trainee marine pilot in November.
With 2017 being the busiest year yet for cruise ships and anticipating an increase in the size of the ships visiting the Cromarty Firth next year, the support of marine officers is "needed more than ever", said bosses.
Mr Thompson will have responsibility for the safe navigational conduct of a vessel throughout its passage in port waters within the Cromarty Firth pilotage district.
Mr Thompson, an experienced ship handler from Newcastle, started out as a cadet with Trinity House, obtained a foundation degree in Nautical Science from Fleetwood Nautical College before progressing to achieving his Master Mariner certificate.
Before joining the port he was master on board the Alert, which is stationed in south-east England.
He follows Tom Feakins as the second officer to join the training scheme. Tom, who has worked on ships around the world during a 15-year career, joined the programme several months ago and recently passed the first assessment on his journey to becoming fully certified.
Before joining the Port, Tom was chief officer on-board the SD Victoria. He has an MSc with distinction in shipping operations from Southampton Solent University and is also a master mariner.
Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: "We are happy to welcome our newest addition, Ben, to the team. His diverse career has spanned nearly a decade and we are looking forward to watching his progress.
"With Tom and Ben in our marine operations team, we will be more than ready for the new and bigger cruise ships coming in to the port.
"By providing high-quality employment opportunities, with training and development, the port is securing the cruise sector, which generates millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs in the Highland economy. Our mission as a trust port is to deliver sustainable models such as this and to continue bringing jobs and social benefits to the area."
The Port of Cromarty Firth has also been involved in developing an apprenticeship scheme as part of a "ports trailblazer group".
The scheme was launched by the British Ports Association to encourage UK ports to plan for the future and invest in traineeships to attract more people into the industry.