Blog : Keeping essential water supplies afloat
Malcolm McKay

17 August 2020

Part of our water team at Aberdeen Harbour, Operations Team Leader Malcolm McKay shares his experiences of delivering essential services while responding to Covid-19.

“As someone who has worked in the water industry for over 34 years, I’m used to seeing lots of change.  But as for most people, the arrival of Covid-19 is nothing like we’ve ever seen before.

Many people might be surprised to learn that Aberdeen Harbour is one of the oldest and busiest ports in the UK.  Serving mainly ships from the North Sea Oil & Gas industries, the harbour also welcomes vessels from much further afield including Norway, Portugal, India and the Philippines.

Supporting essential services

Malcolm McKay, Operations Team Leader at Aberdeen Harbour

Our job is to provide these ships with an essential supply of fresh, clean drinking water before they set sail – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Although the harbour is now quieter in terms of sailings, the need to keep goods moving and businesses running has never been more important.  Working as part of a small-knit team, we continue to work shifts to ensure customers get the water they need, when they need it.

For me, one of the key differences is being able to speak to people as freely and easily as before, particularly as one of my favourite parts of the job is meeting people from all over the world.  Before the pandemic, we used to board the ships to discuss work with the crew. Now we do everything over the phone and make sure that safe distancing is in place whilst we deliver essential services.

I do miss the banter and the camaraderie, but at least with technology you’re not completely cut off.  This team spirit was also very evident in the early days of the pandemic.  Every week we could hear ships sounding their horns to thank health care services and the NHS as part of ‘Clap for Carers.  I’ve been told people could hear it almost nine miles away! 

Saying that, my job means that I’m always on the go and I’ve got the chance to catch up on paper work, maintenance and general odd jobs – simple things like having time to drop off parcels at the Post Office used to be a challenge when it was all hands on deck.

The quiet spell has also had its perks, namely the wild visitors we get especially on the night shift.   Already we’ve had appearances from a variety of wildlife, including seals, foxes, rabbits and dolphins. We even had a deer visit a few weeks ago – I have no idea how it found its way down to the harbour but it was lovely to see – maybe having less people and traffic around gave it a new sense of freedom!

In this together

Although Covid-19 has brought with it a range of challenges, I think one of the positives for me is a new found level of patience and understanding. When the pandemic started, it was all very surreal and took some time to get used to, but now I find myself able to appreciate how fortunate I am and how we’re all in this together.

Aberdeen Harbour plays a vital role in the success of our region and I’m really proud to be able to serve and support as we look towards a brighter future.

Malcolm McKay, Operations Team Leader

All images and video footage was taken pre-Covid19 social distancing measures.

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