Case Study: Ian Moores, Captain of UKD Bluefin, UKD Dredging

How do you become the captain of dredger? Meet Ian Moores
Capt. Ian Moores

Ian Moores knew he wanted to go to sea from a very early age, born in Bournemouth, he joined the sea cadets aged 12 and interviewed for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) at the age of 15.  He was able to join the service shortly after his 16th birthday, and spent a four-year cadetship on six ships and a year in college.  By the time Ian was 17, he’d already sailed around the world.

With more sea time and study in college he completed his deck certificates and by the time he was in his mid 20s, he had qualified as a Master Mariner ready to become a Captain on any vessel worldwide. In the 27 years at sea with the RFA that followed, Ian served in locations all around the world, including active service during the Iraq war, working with NATO, being lead officer with a UK Task Group and sitting on the Admiralty Interview Board to select future RFA officers.  Eleven years ago he decided he wanted to make a change in his sea going career and secured a position ashore with Princess Cruises as their Fleet Marine Advisor.  He was responsible for the cruise lines fleet of vessels, advising the ship’s senior management on all of the company, corporate and statutory requirements and legislation.

But the draw of being master of his own ship was too strong and six years ago, he spotted an opportunity to join UK Dredging as Captain of a dredger. UK Dredging is a division of Associated British Ports (ABP) that undertakes maintenance dredging works to ensure that ports and their approach channels are kept free and clear of silt so that the many merchant ships going in and out, can navigate safety and without incident.

UKD Bluefin is like a big vacuum cleaner

UKD Dredging has six dredging ships in service working in any one of ABP’s 21 ports around the country. They dredge 24/7, 51 weeks of the year, with two crews each working two weeks on and then enjoying two weeks off.

Ian explained that most ports and harbours will tend to silt up over time with the natural movements of the water current, tides and ship traffic shifting the sea bed which then reduces the navigable water depths, making a port less operationally efficient and potentially hazardous to the ships using it.

Ian’s ship the UKD Bluefin usually operates in the Humber, Southampton or in ABP’s South Wales ports. The Humber estuary has the second highest tidal range in Britain with several major rivers flowing into it effectively draining one-fifth of England – creating a lot of material to be dredged.

UKD Bluefin incorporates the latest features

The UKD Bluefin is a purpose-designed trailing suction hopper dredger, 98 metres long (that’s more than 10 double decker buses long), 18 meters wide, about 4,500 tonnes. There’s a crew of 11 fully certified highly skilled professional seafarers onboard the UKD Bluefin, working six hour shifts around the clock, 24/7, 51 weeks of the year.

Ian describes UKD Bluefin as being like a big vacuum cleaner, fitted with twin suction pipes and pumps that glide over the sea floor, capable of sucking up 15,000 tonnes of dredged material every single hour.  The material goes into a hopper which can hold nearly 4,000m3 of material.  Dredged sand creates a fuller cargo, while silt remains in suspension in the sea water for longer because its finer, but both are dredged and then discharged into approved deposit sites.

Ian says you can tell if you’ve done a good job if there’s a good load in the hopper and it’s silt – not water, but the ship is also fitted with an onboard survey computer producing continuous precision position information with digital interfaced dredged area details.  In addition, ABP’s in house hydrographic surveyors continuously monitor and review the dredged area to ensure that the safety of the vessels using the port is assured.

Ian describes being master of the UKD Bluefin as the best job, saying that when you go to sea at the beginning of your career the highlight is handling and manoeuvring the ship, and as master of the dredger he’s now doing that all the time. The best example is when the ship moving stern first into the locks, or dredging 2-3 metres off the jetty, it requires precision handling and is very exhilarating. And he says that his passion for the sea and his work as captain has not dimmed, it’s just as wonderful as it was when he was in his 20s and he hopes to complete his entire career – at least fifty years – at sea.

Asked if he would recommend a maritime career to a young person today, he says yes without hesitation.  It offers a unique opportunity to see the world, you gain some incredible skills and it’s a chance to do something you really love that gives exceptional job satisfaction. Quite simply dredging keeps the UK’s ports open and operationally efficient, enabling the ships we all rely on for the goods that fill our shop shelves, to come and go safely.

Asked about the industry he agrees there have been some very significant changes since he went to sea, the ships are much bigger and the communications have changed.  At the beginning of his career they relied on celestial navigation, now with the help of a satellite you can pinpoint a ships location to within just one meter, but he says that it’s still a good industry offering some amazing jobs and opportunities.


Click here to download further information about a career in the UK maritime sector.