Alicia Pollock has joined an exclusive club in Australian tug operations, receiving accreditation to operate Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tugs to assist Royal Australian Navy ship movements in ports and harbours around the country.
The Darwin-based Pollock is now one of a handful of female specialist tug operators in Australia after completing a two-week course run by Serco training master Rob Hinton.
The Level 1 Basic Tug Handling Training program teaches drivers how to complete several manoeuvres in tugs, including berthing, nosing up to the wharf, and walking the vessel along the wharf.
“It was a real struggle initially,” Pollock said. “The training was really hard and there was a lot of information to absorb.
“Most conventional boats have two engines and a steering wheel. But the Sprightly is a whole different concept and is completely different to operate. You use two pods at different angles and revs to control and steer the boat. It’s pretty intense.”
For the final assessment, the trainee has to put all the manoeuvres together during a timed lap. The time to beat is set by an expert driver, plus an additional 25 per cent time allowance.
Hinton set Pollock a time of 19 minutes to complete the circuit, which she "smashed", according to her trainer.
“Alicia did an amazing job. I was so impressed with her progress from where she started at the beginning of the two weeks to what she was able to achieve in the final assessment.” Hinton said.
The achievement is even more impressive given that during the training course, day-to-day work of the port still had to be completed. Pollock admitted that they "kept getting interrupted during training to go and do other jobs".
The weather was also an obstacle for Pollock to overcome, with a storm rolling in during her assessment, causing reduced visibility and large rain squall. Pollock was "more than up for it".
ASD tugboats are highly manoeuvrable, small yet powerful watercraft that require considerable skill to operate.
“I always wanted to drive the Sprightly, our ASD tug in Darwin,” Pollock said. “I was pretty excited to have the chance to do the training this time round."