Crawford Mackenzie: 50 Years of Service and Retirement

Monday, 10 January 2022



10 January 2022, marks 50 years of service and the retirement for Svitzer Australia’s longest serving employee, Brisbane Chief Engineer Crawford Mackenzie.

Crawford started his apprenticeship on 10 January 1972 as a Fitter and Turner in Howard Smith Industries ship repair yard, on the shores of Sydney Harbour at Water Street, Birchgrove, NSW.

The Foreman of the machine shop was Joe Fitzmayer and the Leading Hand was Stan White. These gentlemen and the fitters and machinists of the shop instilled in Crawford the ability to make any component and repair any piece of machinery.
Crawford also learned some of his many skills in the associated trades shops in the yard; boilermakers, ship’s plumbers, electricians, motor mechanics and shipwrights. Crawford was a capable young worker, able to operate the machines large and small; lathes, mills, horizontal and vertical borers and drills etc. He also possessed the hand skills of his fitting trade; marking-out, metal forming and cutting, grinding, chipping and filing.

As well as his day job as an apprentice, Crawford was enrolled in the Marine Engineering school at Sydney Technical College at Ultimo in the evenings. This required his attendance for four nights and one afternoon each week for three to four hours to gain the technical knowledge to become a competent ship’s engineer, over a period of four years.

Crawford on the bridge wing of the Howard Smith. This ship once carried coal from Ball's Head in Sydney NSW to Ube in Japan
Crawford on the foredeck of the Clontarf from the days of Queensland Tug and Salvage

Once Crawford’s apprenticeship was completed, he went to sea with Howard Smith Shipping as a junior engineer. He worked on a variety of ships including dry cargo vessels, cement carriers, product tankers and crude oil tankers, operating both on domestic and international routes. It was during this phase of his career that, still as an employee of Howard Smith Shipping, he spent some time with the Eastern and Australian shipping company gaining exposure to container ships, a class of vessel not in the Howard Smith fleet.

Crawford was known as a skillful and exacting engineer, performing watchkeeping and repair and maintenance equally well. He was always there to lend a hand when needed and always worked to a very high standard.

Jeff Hircock, Brisbane Operations Superintendent, recalls:

“I first met Crawford fresh out of my apprenticeship when I was called to a dockyard to work on one of the old “Pirate Class” tugs. Crawford had what felt like a thousand people crawling over his tug but took the time to come and meet us, show us our job in the engine room and make sure we were all ok. Much later when I started with Adsteam then Svitzer I was again lucky enough to work with Crawford on so many projects, always enjoying my time with an extremely knowledgeable engineer”.

Crawford gained a position in the harbour towage industry as Chief Engineer on the tug boats in Gladstone and Bundaberg before joining the Brisbane fleet. It was during this time he was also involved in marine salvage.

Crawford has given over and above on the tugboats. He was seconded to the office for about six months to get the Safety Management System in operation and has helped prepare for dockings, modifications and heavy maintenance. He has helped to get planned maintenance systems in place and he has been a member of the safety committee for years, many of them as Chair.

Crawford’s skill and helpfulness has assisted on numberless occasions to get the job finished and the tug back in service. He never needed asking, but when something required repair, Crawford would appear at your side to help and he always stayed until it was fixed. His present Master, Stu Frank, comments:

“Crawford has always made the job look easy being such a professional. I have learnt a lot from Crawford, he is an amazing Engineer”.

Crawford has been a stalwart of the marine engineering profession for 50 years, all with Svitzer Australia and its predecessors.

When asked about the highlights of his career Crawford has shared:

“The highlights of my career would include not only some of the characters I have met along the way, some very entertaining, some very strange, but also, the enormous changes in the shipping industry itself. 50 years ago, there never would have been a notion that the autonomous tug would be developed”.

Crawford’s incredible expertise, professionalism, steadying influence and reliability will be sorely missed, and we wish him the very best for his well deserved retirement!

Note: Thank you to Peter Toohey for his assistance with this feature story!