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Transport & Logistics

Q&A Session: Reflections from the IHMA Congress Chairman

24 Apr 2012, by Informa Insights

Looking forward to welcoming Congress attendees this May to the ‘land of a
thousand welcomes’, Capt. Pat Farnan, Chairman, IHMA Congress 2012 & Harbour Master and Operations Manager, Port of Cork Company, Ireland highlights Cork’s maritime history and the links between Cork and the IHMA. As this circle becomes complete, he also reflects on the on the invaluable experiences IHMA membership offers and the changes redefining the role of harbour masters in the future.

1. Held every two years, what is the significance of the 8th International Harbour Master Congress being held in Cork this May?

Holding the Congress in Ireland and in Cork in particular is significant for a number of reasons. The IHMA President, Captain Alan Coghlan, has served in that capacity for four years and will be stepping down at the 2012 Congress. He has also retired from his full time position as Harbour Master in Shannon Foynes. It is fitting therefore that his last Congress should be held in Ireland to mark his departure.

There’s also a historical connection between Cork and the IHMA Congress. In 1985, the North European Harbour Masters Association met in Cork and at the Congress established the European Harbour Masters Association. In a relatively short space of time, the Association flourished and ultimately led to the founding of the IHMA. The Association has developed strongly since its foundation and at the forthcoming Congress the future direction of the Association will be debated and decided. Unfortunately, many of the founding members have passed on but the legacy they left will ensure the survival and future prosperity of the Association.

On a personal note, I was fortunate to have attended the 1985 Congress in Cork and almost all the Congresses held since then. The opportunity this gave me to meet fellow harbour masters and develop long lasting friendships was invaluable. The wealth of advice and experience that the Association members share is a great asset for all members. This will be my last Congress
as Harbour Master as by the time the next one comes around I will have reached the magic retirement age. So for me the circle is complete.

2. The Port of Cork was the last port of call for the Titanic. What is planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this event?
Cobh, formerly Queenstown, in Cork Harbour, was where passengers embarked on the tender to be transferred to the Titanic. To mark the centenary of the Titanic’s voyage, a program of events will run through 2012 to pay tribute to the Titanic and the people associated with her.

The Titanic 100 Cobh 2012 Event series will offer insights into Ireland’s connection with the Titanic as well as incorporating stories of the Diaspora and emigration. The events will stir the emotions and leave participants with a greater understanding of Cobh and Cork Harbour.
A number of special events are planned between the 9th and 14th April including a call by two cruise ships retracing the voyage of the Titanic.
An exhibition of the photographs taken by Fr Browne, who was a passenger on the vessel from Southampton to Cobh will run throughout the year and is a unique record of life on the vessel.

3. Given the current financial tide, how vital are ports to economic prosperity?
The one shining light in the midst of the doom and gloom is that exports continue to grow in a wide range of sectors including agribusiness, chemical, pharmaceutical, food and drink. Ports are absolutely vital to the continued growth of trade and provide regular and cost effective services to the various industries in all traffic modes.

4. The theme for the 2012 Congress is “Marine experience: Can we manage tomorrow’s port without it?” From your experience, how are ports changing and how are these changes redefining the role of harbour masters in the future?
Ports operate in a challenging and competitive environment and are a vital link in the logistics chain. There is a constant need to meet the ever increasing demand to accommodate and service larger vessels. A harbour master with marine experience is ideally placed to give sound advice in relation to port developments while maintaining the required safety standards. While the management in some ports sometimes see the Harbour Master as creating an obstacle to development when he gives valid reasons against development proposals, overall his contribution is valued.

There are also many opportunities for harbour masters to progress in other areas of port management but to do so he must be prepared to develop skills in management and port operations. The continuous pressure on manpower resources requires port personnel to be flexible and capable of taking responsibility for areas other than in their core areas of competence.

In this port, as well as having the statutory responsibility of being the harbour master I have overall responsibility for port operations including a container terminal, dry bulk terminal, towage, pilotage and pilot launches. To maintain the efficiency of these operations requires knowledge of financial and technological systems. This knowledge was gained over time and by completing relevant courses. As deputy chief executive I also have a wider role in port management. However, the knowledge and experience gained during my seagoing career provided a solid foundation for working ashore.
Harbour masters or mariners with ambition to progress need to take all opportunities to update, develop additional skills and build on their marine qualifications and experience. Trainee officers today enjoy a further advantage in that Certificates of Competency are awarded at Diploma and Degree level, which provides a solid platform for further development.

5. With this conference theme in mind, in addition to Harbour Masters worldwide and in particular, members of the IHMA, who else do you think could benefit from attending the Congress in 2012?
Harbour Masters play a central role in contributing to port operations while maintaining the safety standards required for an efficient, productive and responsible port. The Congress will be of benefit to port managers, ship owners and operators, training providers, and government officials with a role in regulation of ports and shipping.

6. This prestigious international event represents a great and highly anticipated social and networking opportunity for those in the industry, from the Harbour Masters themselves to the relevant maritime authorities, business partners, stakeholders and port community at large. What do you expect will be highlights for delegates and their partners visiting Cork?
Ireland has long been known as the land of a thousand welcomes (Cead Mile Failte) and Cork is a full paid up subscriber to the concept. The Congress will be held in the heart of the City and delegates will not have far to travel to experience all that the City has to offer. Not least being a multitude of hostelries offering the local brew of Murphy’s or Beamish Stout.

For the sports minded there is an abundance of quality golf courses within easy reach. The harbour is a well-known international sailing venue and is home to the oldest yacht club in the world (est in 1720). There are many other local attractions which are easily accessible and can be experienced either before, during or after the Congress.

We will be more than happy to advise any delegate intending to extend their stay and put them in contact with the appropriate local organisation to help them with their plans.




Captain Pat Farnan, Chairman, IHMA Congress 2012 & Harbour Master and Operations Manager, Port of Cork Company, Ireland will be welcoming attendees to the 8th IHMA Congress on Monday 14th May 2012. For more details on the conference programme for the 8th IHMA Congress in Cork, visit: or contact:

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