All-female duo trailblazing at Bunbury Port

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times
Coxswain Brianna Nilon and deckhand Tarni Fortune, 17, are the first all-female team at Bunbury Port.
Camera IconCoxswain Brianna Nilon and deckhand Tarni Fortune, 17, are the first all-female team at Bunbury Port. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

Wind in their hair and smiles on their faces, Brianna Nilon and Tarni Fortune are at home among the sea and salt.

The trailblazing duo are believed to be the first all-female crew at Bunbury Port, bringing some female representation into a male-dominated industry.

Each day, Ms Nilon steers “Bunbury Chief” or “Thumper” out to meet the gargantuan commercial ships coming into port, with Ms Fortune by her side as a deckie.

They then do what is called line running and tow the ships safely into the “wharfies”, who tie the ships up.

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Ms Nilon, who started out as a deckhand two years ago before getting her coxswain accreditation, said she was pretty happy to have Ms Fortune — who is just 17-years-old — come on board about a month ago.

It’s been a long time being the only girl and it’s great to have someone else now.

Brianna Nilon

“It’s really good to see other females get into the industry.”

She also masters two vessels at the Dolphin Discovery Centre, taking eco cruises, and has big plans to get her masters 5, which will allow her to drive large commercial vessels, and an engineering qualification.

Harbour Services Australia operations manager Kurt Haunold said they were the only all-female crew they knew of in any port in WA, and it was “terrific” to have them.

As well as guiding ships in, the girls will go out to ships at anchorage, which many Bunbury locals will have seen at one point or another along the horizon at Back Beach.

They will travel miles to service the vessels, bring them food or spare parts, exchange crew members or help bring injured or sick people back to land for medical treatment.

Only a few weeks in, Ms Fortune was excited for what the future held.

“It’s been quite interesting,” she said.

“There’s always something new going on and all the lines jobs are always different.”

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