DAVID Shennan – a well-known figure in the maritime industry in Victoria, Australia and the UK – died on Tuesday, 4 July of cancer, six months on from his diagnosis. He was 71.

A memorial will be held at the Port of Melbourne Port Education Centre, Lorimer Street, Melbourne, on Thursday 27 July at 1630. All will be welcome.

Before moving to Australia in 2008, Mr Shennan had a distinguished career in the maritime industry in the UK including in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary for 20 years, as a pilot at Portsmouth for 10 years, pilot manager and harbour master at Harwich Haven Authority for 10 years, as well as a lecturer in ship-handling.

Mr Shennan moved to Victoria in 2008 and served two stints as harbour master at the Port of Melbourne. He also served as harbour master at the ports of Geelong and Portland. He also owned North & Trew Marine Consultancy.

Mr Shennan was passionate about improvement of safety standards in the maritime industry and he was an enthusiastic mentor. He served as mentor to three people who went on to become harbour masters in Victoria.

Ports Victoria general manager maritime and harbour master of the ports of Geelong and Hastings Nick Ellul said his years working with Mr Shennan were amazing.

“David was a good friend and a mentor. He was one of those people who had a very subtle and profound effect on the industry,” Mr Ellul said.

“He really encouraged the very serious and almost scientific view of port safety. He was focussed on the human factors around port safety – how the relationship between different port stakeholders contributes to safety and fostering a port community, including harbour masters, pilots, towage providers and shipping agents.

“He brought groups together that didn’t traditionally have strong relationships; that was one of his great strengths,” Mr Ellul said.

Port of Portland harbour master and marine manager Andrew Hays said Mr Shennan was a friendly and helpful person, with a great sense of humour and he was always positive.

“He played a mentoring role; he was always someone that I could call if I needed advice. I could always talk to him if I had any questions,” Mr Hays said.

“At the Port of Portland, David was well respected and he’ll be sadly missed by the community down here in the port.”

Interview – the Grill 2013

On 25 July 2013, DCN (then Lloyd’s List Australia) featured Mr Shennan – who was harbour master at Portland at the time – in the publication’s regular Grill segment. David Sexton conducted the interview.

How did you come to work in the maritime industry?

At 12 I was living in Jamaica where my father was a medical officer of health and port health officer. I visited the Jamaica Producer, which was loading bananas off Oracabessa and got to turn the ship’s wheel on the bridge.

After that I was hooked. Later in Kingston I sailed my Mirror dinghy and Flying Fifteen keel boat off Port Royal and sailed around to Montego Bay in a Camper and Nicholson 36.

With no desire to stay in school I grabbed the opportunity to become a navigating officer cadet at Plymouth School of Maritime Studies and returned to the UK in 1969.

How did you become a pilot?

Probably the most common way – after 20 years as a deck officer, I needed to come ashore for family reasons. I was offered a position as a Portsmouth pilot, which was close to my home in Gosport, so that’s what I did for 10 years, along with some tutoring at Warsash and manned model ship handling at Marchwood Lake. Pilots get a fair bit of time off.

Then I moved to Harwich Haven Authority to become pilot manager and before long found myself the harbour master as well. That was the end of my active piloting days.

When and why did you come to Australia?

I’d been at Harwich Haven for 10 years and loved it, but few poms would pass up the chance to move to Australia, so when the offer came from Port of Melbourne Corporation in 2009, I grabbed it.

Now ,when I go to a Ports Australia meeting, I am in a room with at least two other harbour masters I worked with in the UK. It’s a little uncanny, but nice.

Has it been a good move?

Absolutely – I already have two brothers here, I have an Aussie passport, know the words to the anthem and am right into AFL (going the Tigers). I don’t even complain about the weather – I leave that to the Aussies. My only guilty secret is that I still support England in the Ashes.

Professionally, I’ve increased my skillset and widened my experiences. Hopefully, in return, the outside perspective I’ve brought to the table has benefitted the industry here.

What do you like to do with your spare time?

I mostly enjoy pottering at home, be it Geelong or now Portland as well. It might be yard work, a bit of renovation, or just cooking a good hot curry on a wet afternoon. My partner Joanna and I get up to the You Yangs [hills between Melbourne and Geelong] whenever we can and also like hunting out the best coffee and eateries around the Bellarine, Geelong and Portland.

We also love road trips. If we need to go to Adelaide (which is regularly) or Sydney, we’ll always drive instead of fly.

What makes these activities enjoyable?

The weather and the space – I never tire of getting close to the wildlife in this big sky country. Wallabies, kangaroos, echidna and koala have crossed our path and the smell of the eucalyptus is as good as a summer’s day in old Blighty.

You work in Portland now. Do you prefer big city life or the small-town atmosphere?

I’m not a city dweller. I come from a small town (Pershore in Worcestershire) and the tranquillity of a life at sea doesn’t tend to prepare you for that, which is why I bought in Geelong when I first moved here.

Portland is very green and the weather is a lot more English. Plus, I really like cows, so I feel right at home.

Will you stay I the maritime industry until you retire?

When I left Port of Melbourne I tried to semi-retire by getting into consultancy, but that turned out to be full-time anyway, so the industry clearly isn’t finished with me. I expect I’ll stay around it in some capacity for a good few years yet.