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Our Harbour Master recognised in New Year Honours List
Thr 29 Dec 2016

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Robert Smith who has worked at the Port and with the Harbour Commissioners for the past twenty eight years; firstly as Deputy HM and since 2000 as Harbour Master, has been recognised in the New Years honours list and been awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to the Port and the community of Wells-next-the-sea.

Robert’s links to Wells are incredibly strong, his ancestors have lived in the town since the early 1800’s with one such relative traced and being recorded as an alleged smuggler at the Port.

On hearing of the news, and after it had finally sunk in he said “I am immensely proud to be receiving the award, which I feel is not just for me, but also for my family, 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 for the past twenty eight years during which time I have worked with many amazing people and why this honour, I believe, 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 & North Norfolk.”

During his long career at the Port, Robert has transformed it back to its roots as a working port via proactively engaging with wind farm developers to establish an operational base at Wells-next-the sea. This required the development of an Outer Harbour to accommodate crew transfer vessels and he was instrumental in taking this from an idea to fruition which created 8 new jobs at the Port itself and brought around 50 further jobs to companies establishing themselves in Wells to accommodate the wind farm. Last year Robert was instrumental in improving the visitor experience to Wells by extending the visitor pontoons and by encouraging diversity the Port has its first female Chair in its 353 year history. The Port has gone from a turnover of £100K to over £1.5 million during his time as Harbour Master. Surplus funds are ploughed back into the harbour for the benefit of all Port stakeholders. He also sits on the UK Harbour Masters Association as the East coast representative for small Ports ensuring that the Port of Wells has a voice amongst the larger Ports around the Country.

However aside from his duties as Harbour Master, he also volunteers his time to speak at local community groups on his work and the harbour outside of working hours which raises funds for various charities. Any fees he receives are given to the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust, a registered charity he established himself from such donations with the support of the Commissioners. It became clear to him that many local children were not getting an opportunity to enjoy the harbour through lack of money, so this charity funds local children in maritime courses and skills such as sailing allowing them to achieve RYA qualifications and seamanship who might not otherwise get the opportunity. One of the major fund raiser for the charity is the North Norfolk Triathlon. Robert has ran this event for the last two years with volunteers and which is hugely successful being enjoyed by spectators and competitors alike raising funds for the charity.

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