Our People in Action

Introducing our Port Protection Officers

PortProtectionOfficersPort Protection Officers (from left): Calvin, Dave, Kerri and Dom.

What does a Port Protection Officer (PPO) do?
Our PPOs are responsible for security around our sites, as well as ensuring all visitors are aware of risks and have the appropriate entry conditions to access the port.
They monitor harbour traffic, CCTV and VHF radio communications. The PPOs also assist tug crews and pilots, and in ship movement scheduling.
Port Security Manager Kerri McIvor says the PPOs are available to assist at any given time – day or night. "They are the friendly faces at the Gatehouse that greet all our visitors, truck drivers and contractors. Whether people arrive onto the port from land or water, it is one of our PPOs that greets them."

What does a typical day look like?
The PPOs work 12-hour shifts in a four-day rotation: four days of night shift, four days off, four days of day shift, four days off, etc. There are two PPOs on duty at any given time.
Shifts always start with a handover, covering notable events from the past 12-hour period and any activity on the radar for the next 12 hours.
The team handles Dunedin harbour control communications, marine traffic movements, maritime security and weather information.
Every visitor must be PPO security cleared, which means they have a current safety induction and a Covid vaccine pass. Those heading onto the terminal must be escorted. If vessel crew have shore leave, the PPO ferries them to and from their gangway and ensures their immigration paperwork is in order.
In between customer-facing tasks, PPOs also undertake roving patrols and perimeter checks – by vehicle and foot – around the Port Chalmers, Dunedin Bulk Port, Dunedin Depot and Sawyers Bay sites.

What skills do PPOs need?
The PPOs are well-rounded individuals, who can find their way around a computer competently, genuinely "get" the importance of health and safety, and ideally have some maritime/shipping and security experience. As the first face visitors see when they arrive at port, the PPOs have a helpful and friendly way with people.
Either before they begin or soon after, all PPOs gain their VHF Radio Operators Certificate and Port Facility Security Office (PFSO) qualification. The PFSO qualification ensures each PPO is aware of the port’s obligations relating to the International Ship and Port Facility Code. (The code is a comprehensive set of measures that enhance the security of ships and port facilities.)

What backgrounds do the PPOs come from?
Some come from the port industry, while others come from other fields. We have a former airline pilot, a shipping agent and a supply chain guru.

What is the most unusual task a PPO has yet had to perform?
By virtue of being a border entry point, ports are highly controlled areas and an unusual call up can happen at any time. They can range from injured birdlife, through to a vessel out at sea in distress.

No boredom for port cadet learning ropes

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DoultonNewCadetPort Otago's first cadet, Doulton Tosh, who started in March 2021. Photo courtesy ODT.

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MattEvesStraddlePlatform The Maintenance Team is very pleased with the new set up. Pictured are Maintenance Manager Matt Eves (left) and Mechanic Ron Lee.

Pilots of the future

Port Otago has employed three trainee pilots, so we continue providing high levels of professionalism across our Otago and Fiordland piloting operations. With some of the piloting team nearing retirement, proactive succession planning was required. Each new recruit is attending a one-week manned model course in France. The pilots operate 1:5 scale models, which enhance their training around ships’ pivot points under different scenarios. It is also an opportunity to practise manoeuvres with the aid of anchors, which they cannot practise in real life. Back in the Otago Harbour, the trainee pilots follow a structured Programme and Proficiency Plan, which requires a minimum of 125 transits in Otago Harbour under the guidance of a licenced pilot. They are then peer reviewed and sit both a written and oral exam with the Chief Pilot and Harbour Master, before obtaining their Maritime New Zealand pilot licence grade one (of four levels). Complementing the incoming pilots is the transitional retirement of some established pilots. This win-win scenario sees these pilots working over the port’s busy summer season and enjoying winter off, when pilot demand is low.


PilotsOfTheFuture-HughPremraj Premraj Pillai (pictured with recently retired Chief Pilot Hugh Marshall) is one of three new trainee pilots joining the Port Otago team. Premraj was based in Auckland for nine years, working for New Zealand Coastal Shipping – a job which took him into various New Zealand ports. He gained his F.G. Master Licence 18 months ago and identified becoming a pilot as his next career move. "It's a challenging and dynamic job. There is no room for error and you’re always dealing with different conditions. Otago's pilots are a very good team of skilled and lovely people. I used to think 'if I want to train as a pilot, this is the port where I’d want to do it'."