Documentary about the Port of Southampton. This edition focuses on the pilots, marine staff on patrol and those in the control tower who guide large ships into Southampton.
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On the south coast of Britain lies a city within a city
that's fighting to keep the nation afloat.
The port of Southampton is a gateway to the world.
-It's the cruise capital of the UK.
-Hi. Welcome on board.
-Seafarers from across the globe pass through here every day.
In tough economic times, the port is battling for its share of handling cargo.
This is how we and the shipping line make our money.
Ready for the Christmas Market. Batteries not included.
We are looking for Rolls-Royces, which are hidden amongst potentially 100 Bentleys.
Commercial ships and weekend sailors wrestle for space in crowded sea lanes.
Turn round! Go that way! It's not rocket science! A big ship's turning!
Passengers, ships and cargo shaping the lives of the people
that run one of the busiest ports in the world.
This is Sea City.
-In this episode.
-Keeping the sea lanes clear.
A hairy day for marine officer John Hyland.
It just gives me heart palpitations. HE LAUGHS
How cruise change-over day keeps hotel manager Odd in trim.
I'm not going to use any elevators. And that's what keeps me fit.
And financial advice for owners of leisure boats with mechanical problems.
Take a cold shower while tearing up £50 notes.
The hazards are there. Hold on tight and just take it nice and slowly.
And if we're not happy or the cox in the pilot boat's not happy, we don't go up the ladder.
Every week dozens of ships pass through the port of Southampton.
The approach to the port is one of the trickiest stretches of water in Britain to navigate.
Gary, this might take a little while, yeah?
Pilots Rory Jackson and Chris Upton are travelling out to sea to meet a large container ship.
Their skills in ship handling and crucial local knowledge will help guide her into port.
You're climbing up a ladder, once you're committed to that you're holding on.
If the pilot boat was to foul the ladder as it moves about because it was too rough,
there is a chance that something could go wrong.
Can we have everything off the pilot boat so we can bring the ladder in, yeah?
The Christophe Colomb is the size of four football pitches.
It needs two pilots instead of the usual one to handle it safely.
-The ship carries millions of pounds worth of cargo in over 13,000 containers.
It's one of the largest that the port handles.
VTS, Christophe Colomb.
It'll be approximately two hours...
On the bridge, Rory's explaining the route into the port to the ship's French captain or master.
There'll probably be some sailing boats to avoid.
-Use the whistle.
-There'll be a patrol boat?
-Yes, we'll have a patrol boat.
We cannot know every port in the world,
so that's why we take pilots because they know exactly what to do.
The master knows exactly how his ship may handle,
the pilot knows in detail the conditions in the harbour,
and the combination of the two is aiming to get the ship safely from A to B.
Is it going to be raining at home?
A good pilot is a quiet pilot, first of all.
The British pilots are always noisy but they are very good.
We've just got to make a turn into the channel just over here.
Any big ship that approaches Southampton has to stick to a narrow channel to stop it going aground.
With a large sandbank in the Solent and the Isle of Wight to the south,
the pilot has to make two critical turns to keep the ship on course.
If we turn too early, we're going to come to grief.
If we turn too late, we're not going to make the turn.
So we have to adjust the wheel-over depending on the tide.
So you need a detailed knowledge of the tide.
-Just going around a corner here.
The port's ship traffic control back at Southampton or VTS help give the pilots information for the turn.
CMA, CJ, Christophe Colomb, bound transit, slightly to the left of the reference line.
-Thank you. Two cables. Midship.
-OK, hard to starboard.
-Hard to starboard.
VTS, Christophe Colomb here. On our way round, thanks.
-On the turn.
Making such a complicated manoeuvre in a big ship
risks running over small boats that also use this stretch of water.
The guys in the yachts or boats see you going along and think, "It's OK, he's going that way."
And then suddenly you start turning. If you run over a yacht, that's serious.
Any hazards on the water are dealt with by the port's marine officers.
John Hyland is on patrol today.
There's a lot of small boats
and they all conflict with the commercial traffic.
And we're trying to separate the commercial traffic from the leisure traffic.
A couple of yachts over here are actually crossing his track.
Things can happen very quickly and it can be very serious.
You have got to be alert. You have to have a swivel head, looking everywhere.
If he's going to slow down and stop, he might get in the way.
Sometimes yachts will come right up behind you and go between you and the ship.
You think, "What's he doing then?!"
-Are you OK?
-Yeah. Just fishing.
I didn't see any rods. SHIP'S HOOTER BLARES
A big oil tanker is heading for the main sea lanes.
John's trying to keep the navigation channel clear.
It is not easy for anyone to see what the ship is doing in that area,
because it changes course in not a normal pattern.
The ship's right there. He's doing 11.5 knots, so...
But John's spotted a yacht heading right across the tanker's course!
Really, I'm not sure about this guy.
He is actually turning now.
The pilot on the ship is worried about the yacht too and wants John to deal with him.
Yeah, OK, I'll send him back to the west.
But the yacht is ploughing on towards the ship, despite John's warning sirens.
Turn round! Go that way. No! Go that way!
-The yacht and the ship are seconds apart from colliding.
-Go that way!
Go that way!
Even for someone as experienced as John, that was a close call.
Which part of that "go that way" does he not understand?!
I went up to him, I said, "Turn round, go the other way!"
And he went right under my stern and carried on!
It's absolutely unbelievable!
But this sort of thing happens all the blooming time!
And you think, "Is it me or what?!"
I can't tow him out of the way. It'll just run over him and I'd pick up the bits at the back.
SHIP'S HOOTER BLARES
That's what I don't like. It just gives me heart palpitations.
HE LAUGHS But it happens!
Back on the giant container ship Christophe Colomb,
pilots Chris and Rory have now reached the final stages of berthing her in port.
-But first, they have to swing all 364 metres of her round,
ready to discharge her cargo at the terminal.
Southampton is the busiest cruise port in the UK.
Every week during the summer, thousands of passengers return or set off on a holiday afloat.
All cruise ships have just a few hours on the quay to get ready for their next voyage
after disembarking the last set of passengers.
It's known as a turnaround.
When I step onboard here at the beginning of my contract,
I told myself I'm not going to use elevators and that's what keeps me fit.
Odd Kvamme is the hotel manager for the Balmoral.
Turnaround day is usually the busiest time of a cruise for him.
-We arrived on schedule at 6.30 this morning.
That's essential to have a successful turn-around.
And sometimes, due to weather conditions or it could be other reasons,
if you are delayed, then turnarounds are really challenging.
It's the time when you can have a proper look at the cabins as well.
We have a whole team of carpenters,
so they are ready to do any immediate maintenance.
-How are we doing?
Nice new potatoes. Beautiful. Cannot get fresher. Fantastic!
They are nice.
Chefs Dirk Helsig and Sara Sipek are organising the supplies for the cruise.
If you run out it's not like you can just go to a supermarket and pick it up.
Especially when you're at sea, if you don't have it, you have to change the whole menu.
We have 1,400 people on board. 20 tonnes of meat and fish.
Fruit and vegetables probably 30 tonnes.
Eggs, we need around 23,000.
Oh. Oh. We have to check the melon.
The biggest nightmare for me is the rough seas,
when everything falls over and all the plates fall down
and we have to make everything again.
I'm from a small village in Norway.
Only 700 living there, so we all know each other.
We were there only three days ago with the ship.
It's funny, I'm from a small village with 700 people living
and we have twice that amount of guests on board.
If you just head to the forward staircase. We're on deck 6.
I love it. I love it.
You are never bored. From morning to evening, you are busy.
It's two lives - you have one here busy working
and when you come home, you live a totally different life.
After a career as a land-based chef in Europe,
Dirk wanted a change of direction.
I was a bit bored, so I asked for a new job.
He said, "Oil platform or oil rig,
"Saudi Arabia or ship."
Ship came first so I said, "OK."
-The life is just...
-It's a great life.
-It's a great life.
What I like is you just get dressed and go up two decks and you're at work already.
-You don't have to travel or commute, you know.
The other good part is you go in and eat fresh vegetables, fruits. Mmm.
Would you like to head over to the check-in desk, please?
In the terminal new passengers are checking in for their cruise to the Baltic.
But John Lucas is going to get more than he bargained for when he gets onboard the ship.
You'll be pleased to know we are now ready to commence with embarkation of the Balmoral.
On a busy day, hundreds of pleasure boats cruise around the Solent.
So it's no surprise some of them find themselves in trouble.
Riding to the rescue is Jonathan Parker.
People do get into trouble when they break down.
They'll be floating around, potentially once they drift closer to rocks, they can get into danger.
We need to get to people as quick as possible.
If it's fixable, then Jonathan can probably fix it.
He works for an emergency breakdown company, like roadside assistance but on the water.
There's a large 50-foot motorboat that's anchored off Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
He's stayed there overnight, but he can't get his engine going.
Kevin and Lisa Bowden have spent the last three years renovating their boat
only to find themselves stranded on their maiden voyage.
Just stopped to have breakfast, came up and it's just click, click.
-But it still starts.
-So you've just been stopped for a short amount of time.
-It's not as if...
OK. Can I get you to attempt to start that starboard engine, the one that is playing up?
-Bugger all, as they say.
The idea was we were going to have a trip round the island.
And we still might get it. If we get started in the next hour, we can still make it round the island.
OK, do it again. OK. BELL RINGS
It looks like the starter motor's jammed.
Just going to grab some spanners and we should be able to fix it.
This is really the first big trip since we've considered it finished.
We hope this is going to be one of many.
It turns out that the problem is all down to a small electrical connector.
All it needs is a quick rub down.
You think you know what the problem is and sometimes you're right and sometimes you're completely off base.
It's like a car, you know, something will go wrong at some point.
Hopefully, it's only minor.
ENGINE TICKS OVER
With the engine fixed, Kevin and Lisa are able to continue their trip around the island.
It's very rewarding being able to fix it because you know they're happy.
Other days you can't fix anything and you feel like you're the worst mechanic in the world.
Another call sends Jonathan heading up the coast to help the Impulse, a cruiser with a dodgy gearbox.
Greg Connell is the unlucky owner.
We were just manoeuvring into our berth over there.
We'd just lined up and tried to go forward and no forward propulsion.
I could have ended up hitting any of those boats.
I think what's happening, when you put it in reverse, it's kicking up.
See that oil coming out?
The cable seems to have come adrift or broken actually in the gearbox.
The problem is the gearbox is underwater.
It's a night at the marina for the Impulse.
The boat needs to be hauled out of the water to be fixed.
And it's not going to be cheap.
The best advice I was ever given before buying a boat
was, "Go into a cold house, take a cold shower, while tearing up £50 notes.
"And if you enjoy doing that, you'll enjoy boat ownership."
OK, stop pushing it forward. That's fine.
We've not been able to fix it, but we've been able to reassure him that he's fine to get back on one engine.
And we've found what the problem is so he knows what he's dealing with.
So you get some satisfaction even out of not fixing jobs sometimes.
Pilots who guide large ships safely into port work 24 hours a day.
Shawn O'Toole is starting his shift.
First job, to plan the day ahead.
We don't make it all up, there's facts and figures. I have my tide tables here for the year.
So that's my essential piece of kit.
I mustn't forget the glasses, my most important things these days, I'm afraid to say.
Complacency is the most dangerous enemy.
So if you think it's a small ship it's going to be easy, that's where it all goes wrong. Nice to see you.
Nice to meet you. Thank you very much. How are we doing, captain?
-We're sailing in 30 minutes.
-No problems at all.
The only predictable thing about ships is they're unpredictable.
And if you work on that basis, you'll never be disappointed.
Today, Shawn has a car carrier to take out from port.
Breakaway next few minutes from 201.
Shawn went to sea at 16 as a cadet for the oil company BP.
-Dead slow ahead.
-Dead slow ahead.
-OK. And steer 1-0-0, please.
I know the sort of ship I'm on and I know where the wind is and I know where I want to be.
You get a feel for it.
The tide's coming in so if we just go a little wide to keep clear of the buoy.
It takes a long time to be comfortable with it.
And you still have a wet and windy blowy night, you're not human if you're not a bit nervous.
You just wouldn't be human. We can increase speed whenever you're ready.
But where mistakes at sea may cost a great deal of money and even lives,
there are safer places to get the hang of how large ships behave.
Pilots come from all over the world to train at Warsash's Maritime Academy's Ship Handling Centre.
just up the road from the port.
Once you get across that mental thing that it is a model but doesn't act like a model,
it acts like a ship so treat it like a ship, it responds then as you would expect it to.
Shawn and retired pilot Nigel Allen are both associate lecturers at Timsbury Lakes.
The models look like toys but they behave exactly like the real thing.
Steer right on his bow.
Most of what goes wrong here, it's the right place to do it,
because there's no pollution, fire, loss of life, damage,
but there's a learning experience.
There's a lump in the bank. I've been there once or twice but don't tell anyone else here, OK?
But we'll keep an eye on that lump and see how it chips away over the years.
I'm sure I'm not the first person and I won't be the last person.
Just easy now. Just easy.
These models are fantastic. They handle just like our own ships.
-It gives you a chance to experiment and see what will happen,
but in real life the consequences would be severe.
Even at slow speeds, the effects of large ships passing close to each other are clear.
If these ships had collided in the real world, it could have cost money and lives.
Midships! Ah, yeah!
The lessons you learn on the models, as a ship handler
you keep for use the rest of your career, no two ways about it.
Puts it all into perspective, the mechanics of it all,
what is happening, where the forces are, where the forces are changing.
It doesn't teach you to be a pilot overnight,
but it gives you the basics to keep on going for the rest of your career.
Back at the cruise terminal, John and Sue Lucas have checked in for a trip to the Baltics.
It's Sue's birthday treat for him,
but his family have another surprise up their sleeves.
My dad's 60 and we're coming on a surprise cruise, basically.
Me and my other half and their best friends are here.
We want to get on now so he can come on and be surprised.
It's been planned since May last year.
He thinks that we're all at work and his friends are at home.
He just thinks he's going on a cruise to celebrate his birthday with my mum.
Sue's anxious that John doesn't rumble
that family and friends are onboard and will join them for the two-week cruise.
It's our first cruise to the Baltic, so we are looking forward to seeing the Scandinavian countries.
-4137. That side.
Sue is carefully trying to nudge John towards the surprise without giving the game away.
Let's got to the front of the ship.
In her cabin, daughter Helen is beside herself with nerves after months of planning.
Really hard. We're at breaking point... Well, I'm at breaking point.
-It's a long ship.
-It is, isn't it.
Sue seems to be disorientated. Her ship's compass is a bit awry.
-Got to go up?
-Up to Deck 7, yeah.
Daughter Helen, fiance Steven and best friends Pat and Mike are on their way to spring the surprise.
We're going to the front of the ship to the observatory deck and hopefully that's where they'll be.
But a lack of direction seems to run in the family.
Where are they going? It's this way.
Sue's finally got John to the rendezvous.
She takes the opportunity for a little something to...settle the nerves.
Aren't you all nervous?
The moment finally arrives.
-Happy birthday! Hello!
-If you knew how many secret phone calls we have had!
I was told to book a holiday and that's all I knew,
and then a month ago I was told, "You're going on a cruise and this is where you're going."
But then I didn't expect...this. LAUGHTER
-You didn't, did you?
-So you going to have a drink, then?
With celebrations under way the Balmoral heads safely out of port.
Coming into the docks and nearing the end of its journey
is the container ship Christophe Colomb.
I would have thought this will go round quite quick.
But the ship's so high that the wind can easily blow it off course.
You get so used to working with a south-westerly wind on the portside,
but today it's actually on the starboard side, so you have to rethink everything a little bit.
-Rory and Chris are bringing the ship in for berthing.
Tugs are needed to keep it in position.
Captain Pierre Cort has to co-ordinate ropes and lines with his crew on the deck.
So where we're going, Captain, see the four white cranes up in the air?
Just about there. Hard to starboard.
With a ship the size of four football pitches, there's very little room for manoeuvre.
Damage to the ship or the quay would cost thousands of pounds.
-The pilots go outside to the bridge wing for a clearer view of the berth.
It's certainly not to enjoy the weather.
So we've got about a ship's length to come astern. We'll stop with the wheelhouse.
It needs careful co-ordination of ship's engines, lines and tugs
to park a ship, which is over 350 metres long.
RADIO CRACKLES Position's good.
Nothing astern, Captain.
Nearly six hours since the pilots boarded, the ship is finally and safely on the berth.
-Thank you very much indeed.
-You're welcome. Thank you.
Cowes Week is one of the highlights of the sailing calendar.
Hundreds of yachts take part in dozens of races.
-It's serious competition.
It's a busy time for marine patrol officer John Hyland.
This is when the rule book tends to get to put aside.
There's all rules for this area,
but this week everyone ignores them, you know.
Commercial traffic has to be kept separate from racing yachts
as collisions can be fatal.
You can see some of them are going to get across his bow OK.
You've got one, two, three OK.
The guy with the sail will be a problem.
They have trouble turning, they don't like turning.
And he doesn't like turning either.
The ship behind us is quite manoeuvrable, so he can steer round this situation,
it's not so bad.
If that was a container ship, we'd have all kinds of problems.
And they all think you're the bad guy,
but we're only trying to make sure there's no collisions that's all.
We're not out to stop their fun.
On a busy day it can be quite hairy, we have to be very careful about our timings of ships.
Barry Saddler is a Southampton pilot helping the Yacht Club to run the races.
We need to see if we can track this boat down.
We can ask the race committee to put back the starts,
because we're not just getting the yachts out of the way of the ships,
we're timing the ships so they don't conflict with the yachts as well.
But in 2011, the worst happened.
Two people were injured when a yacht sailed too close to a tanker during a race.
There's been a collision at sea! Look at the front of that ship!
Unfortunately, his mast got caught in the anchor and two of his crew were injured as the rigging came down.
If you look at where the ships are operating against the yachts,
it's almost as if there are near misses every few seconds,
because they're passing within metres of each other.
The spinnaker is on the front of that orange ship!
This is my support RIB here. I'm just going to liaise with him.
This year, to help avoid another crash, John has the help of a fast-response crew
provided by the race organisers.
The RIB is called into action when a line of racing yachts strays into the path of a tanker leaving port.
So everything else now has got to stop.
So these two blue guys are not going to be happy at all about that cos they're going to miss out on a place.
So hopefully this RIB here is going to tell them to turn.
If he is, then he's done a good job.
Come on, turn 'em.
And the other one.
Well done, mate. Excellent.
The new RIBs have been a success.
A potential crash has been avoided.
A big improvement on last year.
This is working out all right. I like this. I like the RIB idea.
So, a quiet Cowes Week, but the risk is always there
and it's the port's marine staff who help keep these busy waters safe.
You can never know what's going to happen. It's always an adventure.
You never know and you can never say it's exactly the same, cos it isn't.
Next time on Sea City.
-At the container terminal, C Team's cranes
swing into action for a record-breaking attempt.
He looks like he's under a bit of pressure up there, don't he?
-Fine dining, Southampton style.
-It smells like chicken.
And how the wheels come off for stolen car smugglers.
If they all come out like that, I'll be very happy.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The second in a three-part documentary series about the Port of Southampton.
The pilots who guide large ships into Southampton, assisted by the marine staff on patrol and those in the control tower, are at the heart of making the port work smoothly. They are challenged by the danger of ships going aground and by dealing with leisure craft which frequently get in the way of the safest route into Southampton.
Plus the work involved in turnaround day for a cruise ship, and a family on board spring a birthday surprise for dad.