Harbour master Robert Smith is made an MBE for his work on transforming the Port of Wells
PUBLISHED: 22:32 30 December 2016 | UPDATED: 22:45 30 December 2016
Robert Smith grew up messing around in boats around Wells Harbour. He worked as a fisherman and stevedore, before joining the harbour team as assistant harbour master 28 years ago.
Since he became harbour master, in 2000, the 350-year-old Port of Wells, has become a key centre for wind farm developers with a new outer harbour.
“I am immensely proud to be receiving the award, which I feel is not just for me, but also for my family,” said Mr Smith, 57.
“Our links to Wells are incredibly strong, with my ancestors living here since the early 1800s and the sea and harbour have always played a big part in our lives.
“I feel fortunate to live and work in such a close community which has some of the warmest and kindest people you could wish to meet. People with a strong sense of duty who are always willing to help others.
“It has also been a privilege to work at the Port and with the Harbour Commissioners for the past 28 years. During this time I have worked with many amazing people, which is why this honour is not just for me, but also for the harbour team and for everyone that has worked alongside me to achieve all that we have at the Port for the community of Wells and north Norfolk.”
Mr Smith oversaw the building of a new outer harbour to accommodate wind farm crew transfer vessels. The facility, which opened in 2010, created eight new jobs at the port and brought a further 50 to the town.
He has also seen the port’s turnover increase from £100,000 to £1.5m a year, with surplus funds ploughed back into improvements like new mooring pontoons. Visiting vessel numbers are on the increase, bucking the trend of other harbours.
Away from work, Mr Smith gives talks about his work and the harbour which raises funds for various charities. Any fees he receives are given to the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust, a registered charity he set up to give children the opportunity to enjoy the harbour and learn skills such as sailing.
“I grew up in this amazing place,” he said. “All my childhood was spent around the harbour canoeing, playing around in boats and sailing. Over the years I’ve seen less and less children doing that so I set up the trust.”
One of the major fund raisers for the charity is the North Norfolk Triathlon, one of a number of major events hosted each year by the harbour. Last year the event, run by Mr Smith, the harbour team and volunteers, raised £8,000 for the trust.
Other successful events include Wells Christmas Tide, which draws thousands to the quayside to see Santa arrive by boat.
Mr Smith now hopes to set up apprenticeships, to give young people the opportunity to work on the harbour.