Blog from IMO Secretary-General

14 July 2014

500 years of Trinity House and my visit to Harwich Depot

On 20 May 1514, King Henry VIII of England granted a Royal Charter that established the Corporation of Trinity House. Trinity House has been providing lighthouse services to ships navigating around the British and Irish islands over centuries and is now the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, a major maritime charity and a Deep Sea Pilot Authority. This year, 2014, marks the Quincentenary year and we should give our thanks for the dedicated service provided by Trinity House, protecting mariners throughout five centuries.  

Five hundred years ago was a really long time ago in history. Trinity House was established before the Matchlock Gun was brought to Japan in 1543, before Francisco de Xavier visited Japan as a missionary in 1549, before William Adams passed away in Japan after his service to Shougunn Tokunaga Ieyasu in 1620 and the Pilgrim Fathers of the Mayflower arrived at Massachusetts in the same year. To commemorate the 500th anniversary year, a splendid Gala Dinner was held at Guildhall of London with the Master of the Trinity House, HRH the Princess Royal, and I had the honour to be invited to attend the dinner as a Guest.

Trinity House has not just been providing lighthouse services but has made a significant contribution to the science and development of lighting. Now, in the age of e-Navigation, it is still conducting research, exploring Aids-to-Navigation systems of the future as well.

On 9 July 2014, upon the kind invitation of the Deputy Master, Captain Ian McNaught, I visited Harwich Depot. I was escorted and guided by the Director of Navigation, Elder Brother, Captain Roger Barker.

During the visit, I was provided with presentations on e-Navigation, challenges for GNSS, the potential of eLoran, recent research and collaboration activities and the most recent developments in electric lights. On e-Navigation, I reflected on the most recent developments at the newly established NCSR Sub-Committee and stated that, since the Strategy Implementation Plan for e Navigation has been established, efforts should now be made to move into the next phase of development, i.e. the practical implementation of e-Navigation and that, at the end of the day, seafarers, including pilots, are the most important actors to do the job of navigation, whilethe provision of updated information and proper notice and guidance to mariners are essential for the implementation of e Navigation.

On the way to Harwich Depot, I noticed a large number of logs in the open space near Harwich Town station. I was advised that they are all from oak trees and materials to be used in the Harwich Mayflower Project to re-construct a life-size working replica of the Mayflower, whose original port was Harwich. The Project aims at regenerating traditional shipbuilding skills, which may have been lost, and will provide opportunities for education and employment in this region. I have seen a similar project in the Mystic Seaport Museum in the United States, in the renovation of a whaling ship, Charles W. Morgan. I enthusiastically support such activities to preserve traditional technologies and skills employed in shipbuilding and I wish all fair wind and the best of luck for the Mayflower Project in Harwich.