Manager puts ‘heart and soul’ into running Victoria Harbour

Transport Canada has awarded its national employee of the year award to Carol Unwin, the department’s Pacific Region senior port operations manager.

The award, one of five national honours handed out each year, recognizes an employee who best serves as a role model to the Transport Canada workforce, maintains department values, outstanding performance and continuous professional development.

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Transport Canada said Unwin was selected for her exceptional grasp of Transport Canada’s role and responsibilities in the safe operation of Victoria Harbour.

Unwin has worked for the department for 17 years, including 15 in Victoria.

“I’m really proud of the work we do, but this award feels to me like it’s more of an award for the teamwork that happens in the harbour than an award for me,” Unwin said.

Unwin joined the Transport Canada team in Victoria after two years with Transport Canada at the airport in Port Hardy.

Initially, she was in Victoria as a support manager, but her role grew over the years to include emergency management and security in the harbour, as well as overseeing harbour patrols.

She also stepped in as interim harbour master after David Featherby retired last spring.

“She really has been the whole ball game here in terms of safety management of the harbour,” said Randy Wright, executive vice-president of Harbour Air.

“And what I really like about her is, whether it’s dragon boats or classic boats, she’s actually out in her survival suit in a Zodiac directing traffic — she is on the water, not in her office.

“I give her full marks on how this harbour is run and its safety record,” he said, noting it remains one of the busiest small harbours in the world.

At its peak, the harbour had 34,000 aircraft movements annually and more than 1,100 boat movements each day. These days, air traffic has been cut down to about 23,000 movements a year, but there are also 35 special events the harbour master’s office co-ordinates in the harbour each year on top of daily patrols.

Ryan Burles, chief executive of Black Ball, which operates the Coho car ferry between Victoria and Port Angeles, Washington, said Unwin is a true steward of the harbour. “She has put her heart and soul into it, it’s not just a job,” he said, adding Unwin was a big part of establishing a traffic scheme for the harbour that works and is safe.

“[The early 2000s] were a tumultuous time, there was a lot of pressure from the community wondering if float planes and ships could operate safely in this harbour. They worked hard on that plan and that set a great foundation for what we have today.”

Unwin said her favourite part of the job is the people. “There’s a great bunch of people [working and using] the Victoria Harbour, and everyone works toward this being a safe place,” Unwin said. “They are all fully engaged.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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