by Jeni Bone
The role of Sydney Harbour Master is 200 years old this year, dating back to 1811 when the first harbour master, Robert Watson, was appointed to control the port of Sydney, which handles more than $50 billion of international and domestic trade annually.
SPC Sydney Harbour Master Philip Holliday ©Brendan Read
At the helm since 16 May this year is British Master Mariner, Philip Holiday, 41, for whom the move to Australia from England was as much a lifestyle proposition as a professional opportunity.
From Middlesbrough, Holiday moved to Sydney’s Mosman in May to take on the role of Harbour Master. His wife and two daughters are enjoying their new home immensely, he reports, and his daughters, aged nine and 11 are looking forward to learning how to surf next term at school.
Holiday previously spent four years in the role of Harbour Master in Southampton, the UK’s busiest cruise ship port, handling 1 million cruise passengers and 300 cruise ship visits a year. Prior to that, he was with Associated British Ports for 12 years.
Joining the Merchant Navy at just 16, Holiday attained his unlimited Master Mariner qualifications and went on to complete a University degree in Business and Computing.
For a position that involves planning, co-ordinating and overseeing all aspects of port operations, including emergency responses and the safe navigation of nearly 2500 ship visits to Sydney Harbour and Port Botany every year, Holiday says there are just as many technical and operational demands as there is management focus.
'This is a port that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. You have to have patience, team management ability and the capacity to coordinate a broad range of people with diverse skills. That dynamic is very testing. There is also the technical aspect of berthing ships. You have to be able to take onboard everybody’s views and make a decision.'
Holiday says that he and his family have settled in, taking to life in Sydney quicker than expected. 'It's a beautiful city and one that we are eager to get to know. I hope my tenure has longevity.'
Of comparisons between Southampton and Sydney, Holiday would only say 'they each have their own set of challenges'.