Pictured here: Dan Albert, tugboat captain for Atlantic Towing Limited at the Port of Saint John.
Port Saint John is a busy place. Many people, doing many different jobs, all contribute to keeping things moving.
It is easy to assume that everyone who works here is a Port Saint John employee – but that’s not true. A great number of the people who work on the water and on the wharves work for partner companies who provide essential services.
Today we’re featuring Dan Albert, who is one of seven tugboat captains working for Port Saint John partner company Atlantic Towing Limited. We asked him about the kind of work he does, and how he started out on the tugs.
Q: WHAT KIND OF AN IMPACT DOES YOUR WORK HAVE ON PORT OPERATIONS?
A: Tugs are an integral part of harbour operation, ensuring the safe and timely docking and undocking of ships in the Saint John harbour.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
A: Most of my work consists of providing ship assist for tankers and cargo ships in Courtenay Bay, and cargo ships in the main harbour – helping them move safely in and out of the harbour. We also assist the odd cruise ship when the weather calls for it, and can get called to fill in at Canaport and assist with LNG tankers.
I’m also responsible for ship management and ship maintenance. We have a preventive maintenance program onboard our tugs that keep the crews busy throughout each day, along with regular maintenance and upkeep of the boats.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
A: Operating the tug is definitely my favourite part of the job. I have always enjoyed manoeuvring boats, it never gets old for me.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR MOST CHALLENGING DAY AT WORK?
A: The most exciting and challenging day I’ve had on the job was when I passed my exams to become Captain and started training the very next day on a brand new Z-drive tug.
It was very challenging, because these tug were unconventional at the time. They do not have a steering wheel like you would expect, as they are operated by joysticks and are highly manoeuvrable.
It took a while to wrap my brain around this new concept of tug manoeuvring, especially as a Captain just starting out.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED FOR ATLANTIC TOWING LIMITED?
A: I have been with Atlantic Towing for 31 years full-time this coming July. It was a natural fit for me, because my family has a strong connection to the company.
My father (Claudius) worked here for 46 years before retirement, and my uncle Augustine worked here for roughly 42 years before his retirement.
My brother also started working with Atlantic Towing at the age of 14 or 15. He still works on a tug at this time, but for Irving Oil (Canaport).
Several of my cousins also worked here over the years. My cousin Mario Gionet started out as a deckhand then went on to become Chief Engineer and is presently Superintendent.
Q: WHAT LED YOU TO THIS JOB?
A: I started going on the tugs with my father from the time I was 5 years old. When my brother and I were a little older, Dad would let us bring a friend with us for trips up the river to Chipman.
I started working on the St. John River with my father during the summer months when I was 14 years old. At that age, I had to get a note from my doctor and a work permit to be able to work on the river tugs.
I started out as deckhand, and there wasn’t any type of formal training like they have now. It was all on-the-job training.
I became mate in 1991. To be a mate, I went to the School of Fisheries in Caraquet for four months and then to Holland College for an extra two months to complete my courses the following winter.
In 1995, I went to the Nova Scotia Community College to become Captain.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT ON A SEAFARING CAREER?
A: My advice would be to take pride and interest in your job, stay motivated, and to always try to be the best worker you can be.
To learn more about careers at Atlantic Towing visit their website.
Editors’ Note: Watch for the tug water display in the harbour on Community Day, June 12, 2016 at 1 pm. Dan Albert just maybe the captain on one of the tugs!
This post is also available in: French