Gladstone’s little line boats doing a mighty big job

Originally posted on the Gladstone Observer

They’re the small orange boats that are dwarfed by the massive cargo ships they service.

Colin Andersen of RC Marine manages a fleet of six line boats which play a vital role in Gladstone Harbour.

“Basically what they do is take the mooring line from the ship to the wharf,” he said.

To securely tie up a coal ship will require six or more long, thick mooring lines and to get them to wharf is the job of the line boats.

Usually manned by two crew, a deckhand and a skipper, the small boats run alongside the ships which are held in place off the wharf by tugboats.

“It can be a bit tricky depending on the wind, waves and tide,” Col said.

Ropes from the ship are pulled across the gap from the ship to the wharf by the line boat then a smaller rope is tied to the mooring line and this is tossed up to the wharf crews who loop it over a bollard.

Once the line is secure the ship’s crew, under direction of the pilot, will use automatic winches to reel the ship onto the wharf.

“We have five boats in Gladstone and one in Port Alma,” Col said.

“We moor bauxite, coal, fuel and cruise ships, we’d probably tie up 45 vessels each month.”


It’s a round the clock operation in the busy harbour.

“We can be out two or three times in one night,” he said.

“On Christmas Day we had five boats to tie up, then nothing on Boxing Day.”

“Which is why we’ve have a really good time management system.”

“But it’s a great job, we love it.”