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Updates from Maritime Film UK’s Rob White, TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN

NO PRINCE FOR YOU, EITHER

16 February 2024

Anyway, after filming what the RN allowed with that – and witnessing the students on the Future Maritime Engineers excursion both excited and interested at the sight of their navy’s maritime assets on display in Portsmouth harbour, it was time to visit the BAE workshops in the base, to get a handle on what life is like for their trainees. Only…unannounced to us, they were taking tests that day, so we were valiantly hosted solo by BAE’s Matt Gordon (picture.) Next stop HMS ‘Prince of Wales’, for a tour of the UK’s latest warship, the Royal Navy’s £3,000,000,000 asset, ready to go (kind of.) Impressive even alongside, if not exactly the most beautiful ship the navy ever commissioned. Yours for 10 points: was I to be allowed to film this PR opportunity for the RN? Yes/No. (See answer at * below.)

* – No.

A LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS..?

16 February 2024

That bold recruiting call by the Royal Navy clearly didn’t apply to me on Future Maritime Engineers – no filming of anything RN during the FME harbour tour. (The students had a blast driving the tender, though). Evidently my shots would be a deadly threat to Britain’s maritime security. ???? The Royal Navy is desperately short of engineers, and the more our film might do to promote such a career would surely help. So hard-up are the RN they once launched a ‘RELIVE a Life Without Limits’ campaign, to re-recruit engineers who’d left the navy. Anyway, I had to find a solution, since I couldn’t film the whole point of the harbour tour, i.e. RN in being – had to have that. To see what I did, go https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/the-wellington-trust-future-maritime-engineers/ and at 05.19 look very quickly at the bottom left of the screen…

GETTING POMPEY

16 February 2024

Day 3 of the Future Maritime Engineers project, and Rebecca Swan of the Wellington Trust had fixed up a great programme of visits to HM Dockyard Portsmouth, starting with a harbour trip on board a SERCO tender (the RN outsources a lot of its inshore work to this excellent service company.) Of course I wanted to film that too for the project movie – and so I asked, early in the project, could I go on board the tender, please. Reluctant yes. BUT I was not to film any RN ships, personnel or dockyard facilities – what the students were keen to see, like thousands of visitors to Portsmouth harbour every year. I could only film towards Gosport – some yachts and a tanker. No warships. So I had to get the students had to look where they didn’t want to. Terrific.

BENDS AND HITCHES

16 February 2024

As my father often told me, you say “bends and hitches”, not knots. Or anyway that’s the way it was in his pre- and post-war RN. The students on the Wellington Trust’s Future Maritime Engineers project were acquainted with the knotty problems a life at sea can bring by learning how to rig an overside cradle in a special training suite at Solent University. It soon became clear that your life might depend on getting your rope handling right – especially if you were, say, hanging overside from the mighty height of a discharged bulk carrier in order to do a bit of scraping and painting – one of the less lovely aspects of sea life. Also addressed were other aspects of the sometimes magical-seeming art of dealing with your bends and making sure there were no hitches (of the wrong kind.)

TANK FOR THE MEMORY

20 December 2023

The tank at Warsash Maritime College revealed itself to the Future Maritime Engineers team as a very long and narrow swiming pool with a gantry suspended across it, where master of ceremonies xxx xxx took charge ,- King Neptune right in the heart of the Academy. He it was who had the waves (if not the wind down in that tank space) under his command, to do his bidding. And his bidding was to send waves of increasing height down along the tank, testing FME’s paper boats to their limits, among much hilarity from the young naval architects who had cast their bread over such troubled waters. From his bridge over that inland sea, Professor Garfunkel aka Jonathan Ridley watched their progress Or lack of it. Anyway the point was well made, increasing still further the FME Trip Advisor rating!

BOATY McBOATFACES

20 December 2023

Sorry about that… anyway, after “sailing” around Portsmouth harbour, complete with two aircraft carriers and mines awaiting detonation, (one went off) it was time for Wellington’s Future Maritime Engineers team to do a bit of boat building. In paper. In fact, as Warsash Maritime Academy’s Head of Engineering Jonathan Ridley assured us, paper’s just the ticket for the job. The job being to create vessels to use in the trials tank at the Academy – the next exercise for the students. The properties that such funny hat boats would have, being suitable for experimental work in the heart of the building – kind of a miniature seaway in Southampton Solent’s part of the city’s university district. This was less easy than the words I’ve used to describe it. It’s fair to say some boats were more boaty than others, but who’s quibbling…

WARSASH HOSPITALITY

20 December 2023

Confusingly, Future Maritime Engineers’ first port of call, Warsash Maritime Academy, isn’t actually in Warsash, on the Solent, where it has been for many years. With accommodation and space in mind, the Academy found a new home near Southampton’s Solent University. Warsash retains offshore and firefighting facilities on site, but new bridge simulators – funded by the late Sir Donald Gosling – were created at Solent itself, to accompany a testing tank and classrooms. But those simulators! The one the students used – with panoramic computer graphics recreating Portsmouth harbour, and a modern ship’s bridge responding to helm and engine orders, was a wild experience. As each student “drove” the “ship”, across wakes and rough(ish) water, the “ship” “heeled” in response. So did you, before you realized you were actually standing on a solid concrete floor, and your brain was being bamboozled!

GETTING MARITIME

20 December 2023

So where to go with the students involved in HMS Wellington’s Future Maritime Engineers project? FME leader Rebecca Swan rolled up her sleeves and hit the phones and e-mail. Her aim was simple to understand, but not easy to achieve: to show the wide range of maritime engineering available for careers here, no matter that the UK is no longer so big in actual ship-owning and construction (though even as recently as the 1950’s Britain was still building around half the world’s ships!) The course would need to be energizing, informative, and most importantly, fun for the students. And the visits would need to encompass both the Royal and Merchant navies. A tall order indeed, but Rebecca is used to that. An early call was to Warsash Maritime Academy with its state-of-the art facilities. Answer: yes, bring ’em on!

About Rob

Rob WhiteRob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.

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