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Orkney Island Council - Marine Services

Marine Services, a division of Orkney Islands Council as the Competent Harbour Authority (CHA) is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the 29 piers and harbours located throughout the Orkney Islands under their jurisdiction and operate under the principles set out in the Port Marine Safety Code.

The range of ports and harbours within Marine Services are both varied and diverse; from the Oil Port of Scapa Flow that hosts multiple ship to ship transfer operations of crude oil and vessels serving the Flotta Oil Terminal, to the major harbours of Kirkwall and Stromness that receive on average 80 cruise Ships annually making Orkney the most popular cruise ship destination in the Uk, to the remote island facilities of North and South Isles which receive almost daily lifeline services from our fleet of 13 Inter Island Ferries carrying over 320,000 passengers annually.

Scottish mainland ro-ro ferry services via Northlink Ferries operate on a daily basis to the ports of Aberdeen, Lerwick from Hatston and Scrabster from Stromness; a container service operates twice weekly from Lerwick and Aberdeen to Kirkwall. Pentland Ferries operates from St Margaret’s Hope to Gills Bay in Caithness and operates both passenger and freight services.

In addition to the larger vessels using the port facilities, there is a strong commercial inshore fishing fleet located throughout the islands as well as the ever increasing pleasure craft fleet some of which call into our 3 Marinas in Kirkwall, Stromness and Westray.

Scotland's longest deep-water berth is located at Hatston just outside Kirkwall and is 385 meters long. The recent extension to the Hatston berth was part of a large investment by the Council and its funding partners resulting in a re developed berth at Lyness and a new pier, Copland's Dock in Stromness.

Marine Services provides all pilot launch and pilotage services directly as well as Vessel Traffic Services for Scapa Flow and approaches and the Kirkwall Harbour area. This information service is in operation 24/7/365.

Scapa Flow History

Much of the following is taken from Charles Tait's 'The Orkney Guide Book' (ISBN 0951785958):

Although long used as a transport route and a fishery and mentioned many times in the Viking Saga's it was not until the 16th century that Alexander Lindsay, pilot for James V of Scotland, did a survey of Orkney waters, including Scapa Flow. The name itself derives from the Old Norse Skalpeidfloi – bay of the long valley isthmus.

In 1812 Scapa Flow was suggested as a temporary rendezvous of the Royal Navy. In the same year the United States had declared war against Britain and this caused the first recent coastal defences to be built around Scapa Flow. Hackness Martello Tower and Battery, along with another tower on the north side at Crockness, were built between 1813 and 1815 to guard Longhope against attack by privateers supporting the United States during the Napoleonic wars. Due to the action of French Privateers in the English Channel many ships were taking the westabout route through the Pentland Firth. Ships collected at Longhope until a warship escort arrived and were vulnerable to attack during this time. The 33ft high towers contain living accommodation for the gun crew, a magazine below and a revolving gun carriage on top. The 24-pounder gun thus had a 360 degree arc of fire and a very good view of any approaching ships. The battery nearby had 8 24-pounder guns covering Switha and Cantick Sounds and was protected by an embankment and stone parapet. In 1866 the guns were replaced with 68-pounders firing through embrasures.

In 1905 the Admiralty became more interested in using Scapa Flow as a base for the Home Fleet. Before World War I the Navy held exercises in most years, often involving up to 100 ships. Just before the start of the war the Grand Fleet put to sea and dispersed to Scapa. Nothing yet had been done to render the harbour secure against attack and the fleet was continually under threat of U-boats or even a daring destroyer attack. Gradually defences were improved with 21 block-ships sunk at the eastern approaches, anti-submarine nets suspended between long lines of herring drifters, boom defences and various guns mounted on coastal positions.

The Northern Patrol covered the sea area between Iceland, Scotland and Norway, and intercepted 15,000 ships during World War I. This effective blockade was carried out by the 10th Cruiser squadron, most of which were armed merchant ships.

There were also tragic allied losses during World War I in the Scapa Flow area. In June 1916 Lord Kitchener, the Minister of War, arrived in Scapa Flow on his way to Russia to confer with the Czar's government. He left on board the 11,000 ton HMS Hampshire on 5th June and took the unusual westerly route due to the unseasonably bad weather. This weather had also prevented mine-sweeping in the area and it was a mine that caused the ship to sink with the loss of all but 12 of her company. In Scapa Flow itself an internal explosion caused HMS Vanguard to blow up with the loss of all but two of her crew, over 1,000 men, on 9th July 1917.

Twenty two years later at the start of World War II, the battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk at her moorings by a torpedo from a U-boat. The sinking resulted in the loss of 833 men and boys out of a total of about 1200. The means of sinking drew attention to the inadequacy of the protection around Scapa Flow. Many of the blockships sunk in World War I had been shifted by the tide or had disintegrated. More blockships had been procured and there were plans for further coastal defences but these had not yet been put in place.

The possibility of permanently blocking the eastern entrance to Scapa Flow was considered even before World War I but it wasn't until 6 months after the sinking of the Royal Oak that a plan was finally approved. In the meantime a further 13 blockships had been sunk. The Civil contractors Balfour Beatty were given the task of creating the four Churchill Barriers. This eventually employed 1700 men, including some Italian Prisoners of War, cable ways that had been used to build a bridge over the river Tigris in Iraq and power stations, railways and quarries. A total of nearly 1 million cubic metres of rock were used in their construction and they were clad with 36,500 5 ton blocks and 15,000 10 ton blocks.

Although not officially opened until May 1945 i.e. at the war's; end, as early as 1942 the rock filled wire baskets were breaking the water surface and preventing any further entry of submarines in an effective, definitive way.

Scapa Flow continues to attract the world's navies, with NATO exercises and one-off visits still occurring. However, it has been the development of the oil terminal on Flotta, started in 1974 and operational two years later, which has brought some of the biggest ships afloat, huge oil carriers, into the great natural harbour. For similar reasons it is the available depth and shelter which has seen proposals for a container transhipment hub in Scapa Flow, able to accommodate ships not yet built but too deep and/or too wide for many of the world's existing ports.

Staff Profiles

Mr Brian Archibald, Harbour Master and Head of Marine Services, Engineering and Transportation

Orkney Harbours - Mr


Brian joined Orkney Islands Council as Head of Transportation and Amenities under which comes Marine Services incorporating the Harbour Authority, Orkney Ferries and Orkney Towage. This role has now evolved to include that of Harbour Master.

Brian previously served 36 years in the Royal Navy as a warfare officer rising to the rank of Commodore. He is a qualified Master Mariner (warship) and his Royal Navy Career included three sea command appointments. The latter part of his naval career involved the project team leadership for complex ship and weapon maintenance and procurement programmes including repropulsion programmes, the design of the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship and the leasing of the Royal Navy’s ice breaker and patrol vessel.

In addition to his leadership of Marine Services and statutory Harbour Master responsibilities, Brian is also responsible for the delivery of the Interisland Air Service, all Public Bus and Transport services and for Civil Engineering. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, a Full Member of the UK Harbour Master’s Association and has a Masters degree in Business Administration in addition to his BSc in Electrical Engineering


Captain Alistair Wylie, Deputy Harbour Master Operations

Orkney Harbours - Captain
In 1979, Capt. Alistair Wylie joined the Orkney Islands Shipping Company where he moved up through the ranks to become Master in 1989. He sailed as master for over 22 years on the inter islands ferries, an experience which has given him intimate knowledge of the tides and currents that surround Orkney. In 2010 he came ashore as a Marine Superintendent and then went on to become Ferries Operations Manager in 2012.Alistair was promoted to Deputy Harbour Master ( Operations) in January 2015 and is responsible for the day to day operations of the 29 piers and harbours within the Orkney ports estate. With the diversity of shipping that arrives in Orkney, this a very challenging role in ensuring that the supporting infrastructure of tugs and pilots are available when needed, berths are fully prepared for the receiving of vessels be it freight or ferries, dive support vessels or cruise liners and in addition, that  the oil port of Scapa Flow is fully coordinated in servicing Ship to Ship transfers of crude oil and LNG and vessels are safely berthed at the Flotta Oil terminal.
Alistair is a Full Member of the UK Harbour Master’s Association.


Mr David Sawkins, Deputy Harbour Master Strategy and Support

Orkney Harbours - Mr

David joined Orkney Islands Council as Ferry Services Manager for Orkney Ferries Ltd in May 2005. With the formation of the Council’s Marine Services Department he was appointed as Head of Marine Services (Support) in April 2009.

David was the Interim Director of Marine Services from January 2011 until September 2012 and the Marine Services Senior Manager and Harbour Master from October 2012 until January 2014. Since then he has undertaken his present role which includes responsibility for strategic planning, oil spill response, harbour plans and infrastructure.

David previously worked for the ports, harbours and marine sections of Portsmouth City Council (1989 – 1996), Shetland Islands Council (1996 – 2003) and Port Sutton Bridge ( 2003 – 2004) gaining wide and varied experience in port management and operations, ship operations and vessel’s major refit / building.

David has a Honours degree (BSc) in Engineering & Management Studies (Portsmouth University, 1994), an International Diploma for Harbour Masters (2011) and is a Full Member of the UK Harbour Masters Association and a Council member of the British Ports Association.


Mr David Hibbert, Technical Superintendent

Orkney Harbours - Mr
David has over 10 years’ service with Orkney Islands Council and has accumulated over 30 years’ experience in ship operations and management, and is a fully qualified Chief Engineer and registered Incorporated Engineer.
He joined the management team at the Harbour Authority  in 2010, and prior to this he was the Technical Superintendent with Orkney Ferries Ltd. David  is responsible for the maintenance and availability of all of Orkney Marine Services Vessels, VTS, Linkspans and Harbour infrastructure.  He is part of the operational management teams for the towage, ferries and harbour operations. 


Mr Michael Morrison, Business Development Manager

Orkney Harbours - Mr

Michael is the first Business Development Manager to be appointed to the Marine Services Division. He joined the Service in January of 2009 having previously been the General Manager for Loganair at Kirkwall Airport.

An Orcadian by birth, Michael spent 13 years in the British Army and then worked residential property in England and Scotland before spending 11 years in the Far East in Business Development and Project Management.

Michael is responsible for revenue generation and market awareness for all facets of the Ports Estates including ship to ship oil transfers, cruise ships, marine renewable energy infrastructure development and marketing initiatives for these revenue streams.


Mr Andrew Blake, Port Marine Safety and Counter Pollution Manager

Orkney Harbours - Mr

Andrew was born into a maritime family in Hampshire and has always had salt-water in his veins. He completed his schooling in South Africa, having emigrated there with his family. After school he joined the South African Navy (SAN), spending a considerable portion of his career at sea and rising to command three ships of three different classes. In his last five years he was responsible for the acquisition of a core mine-warfare capability for the SAN. During this period he also undertook the duties of standby naval harbourmaster and pilot.

In his quest to get closer to ships and the sea, Andrew chose to look to his country of birth with its strong maritime heritage in order to best utilise his skill set. His love for island living immediately attracted him to the position of port marine safety and counter pollution manager in the Orkney Islands.


Miss Hazel Stephen, Office Manager

Orkney Harbours - Miss
Hazel has been with the Department of Harbours since 1976 and is one of the Councils longest serving employees having served under 5 Directors of Harbours.
Hazel responsibilities are wide and varied in her remit as Office Manager. Her responsibilities cover both the Harbour Authority and Orkney Towage Co Ltd and range from invoicing, staff rosters, personnel matters, compliance and governance, audit preparations to sales and budget ledgers, budget control and  responsible for the day to day running of the Harbour Authority Building.


Miss Jenni Kakkonen, Senior Biologist

Orkney Harbours - Miss

Jenni joined Marine Services, Marine Environmental Unit in March 2007 as a Biologist. In February 2012 she took on the daily management of the Marine Environmental Unit as a Senior Biologist. 

Jenni is responsible for the marine ecological monitoring work carried out by the Unit. This includes marine non-native species monitoring, sandy and rocky shore monitoring, radiological monitoring, ballast water sampling and contract work carried out by the Unit.

Jenni has a BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology from University of Bristol and an MSc in Aquatic Ecosystems Management from Edinburgh Napier University. She is currently in process of analysing data collected by the Marine Environmental Unit as part of her part-time PhD research with Heriot-Watt University.


Captain John Taylor, Marine Superintendent - Pilot Launches & Towage

Orkney Harbours - Captain

John joined Shell Tankers (UK) Limited as an indentured apprentice in September 1965 and left to work for Elf at Flotta Terminal during 1998.

 He was an Offshore Supervisor in Oman for five years and Marine Superintendent in Brunei for three years, before transferring to Japan where he was part of the team that oversaw the introduction of large Petronas LNG tankers to several Japanese ports.

John gained his Command during 1988 and was Captain of product tankers, LNG vessels and ULCC’s up to 1998.

When he left Flotta Terminal after it was sold to Talisman Energy, he set up his own Company, working on projects for renewable energy off Eday, completing STS oil transfers worldwide and playing a key role in some of the worlds’ largest salvage operations. He has been working in the port of Rotterdam, between salvage operations, gaining invaluable experience on tugs and Port Operations. John joined the team at Marine Services in Orkney this summer.


Contact Us

Scapa Flow Harbours

Orkney Islands Council, Marine Services, Harbour Authority Building, Scapa, Orkney, KW15 1SD


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At Orkney Islands Council Marine Services, we recognise that the people we employ are our greatest asset. We therefore seek to attract the best people, provide them with the opportunities to develop their skills and encourage them to make their career with us. Working for marine Services could take you further than you ever thought possible.

Career development is fundamental to our success. It promotes a culture of continuous self-development; provides a stimulus for personal and business growth; complements our appraisal process; and, importantly, supports an individual's ongoing development plans.

Marine Services is an equal opportunities employer and no terminology in these adverts is intended to discriminate on any grounds. We confirm that we will gladly accept applications from any persons matching the skills requirements for these roles.

It is unlawful for us to employ a person who does not have permission to live and work in the UK. Unless the adverts state otherwise, please ensure you have this permission before applying as documentary evidence will be required.

Current Vacancies

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Latest News
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19 Jul 2017


The landscape is soon to change in Scapa Flow with the accommodation rig vessels Safe Boreas and Safe Zephyrus, owned and operated by Prosafe, leaving for the North Sea and Norway...


31 Aug 2016

Company to explore decommissioning plans for Lyness

Orkney Islands Council is giving a specialist company the opportunity to investigate Lyness’ potential as a base for North Sea oil and gas decommissioning work. The project is at an early...


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Orkney Islands Council, Marine Services, Harbour Authority Building, Scapa, Orkney, KW15 1SD