For almost 50 years the port has been Keith Dawson’s second home.
Since answering a 1970 Harbour Board advert asking for an assistant pay master at Port Taranaki, the sea, ships and salt air have dominated his working life, and he hasn’t regretted it.
“I always had a great interest in ships and the sea, and working here was the ideal job – my hobby became my work and it’s been a great environment to work in,” he says.
“I had considered going to sea as a radio operator, but I’m pleased I didn’t - there’s great camaraderie here and great working conditions. You don’t work this long at one place if it hasn’t been enjoyable, and it really has.”
At 68, and after 47 years’ service at the port, the shipping officer will retire in March next year having been part of, and witness to, a lot of changes in the life of the port.
After starting out as assistant pay master he moved into general administration before finding his home as shipping officer in the early 1980s. His work involves invoicing for ships, cargo, contracts, and land and property charges, and he also maintains the port shipping log - no ship comes in or out of port without his knowledge - and he continually assists the pilots with shipping planning.
“When I first came here the Harbour Board was in the middle of constructing the Blyde Wharf complex on reclaimed land. There have been a lot of changes since, from the containerisation of the port through to the discovery of oil and gas and the Think Big projects of the 80s that brought the Motunui methanol plant and the Kapuni urea plant.
“Port Taranaki has done well over that time to adapt and evolve and I think it will continue to do so,” Keith says. “If you have a customer who wants to use the port you’ll go out of your way to help them, and I think Port Taranaki does that very well.”
Over 47 years there have been numerous stories to tell, from police chases around the wharves and skinny dippers frolicking off Ngamotu Beach, to the characters he has worked with who “kept the place lively”, and the enjoyment of watching thousands of kids swim, bike and run in the Weet-bix Kids’ Tryathlon, held annually on the foreshore.
Keith’s knowledge of ships that have visited our port over the past half century is second to none and will be sorely missed when he retires.