Anyone who frequents the wharf in Harbour Grace has probably seen Bert Vokey.
“I’ve worked on the wharf here in Harbour Grace for over 45 years and I plan to be here until the day I retire,” he explains with a smile.
Today, Bert is Operations Manager at Harbour Grace Cold Storage, which services the offshore fishing vessels that come into the town to unload their product. Bert’s team discharges the product from offshore boats and brings it into the cold storage facility to be sorted, wrapped and stored. From there, some product goes to local plants for processing, while other products have already been processed by the local crew at sea and are shipped to customers all over the world.
“The flow of product in and out of the cold storage is constant,” Bert explains. “We are a two-shift, 12-month operation with 83 unionized employees, up to 90 people when we are really busy. We’re not focused on getting unemployment insurance. Almost everyone is working full-time and year-round. It’s a busy spot.”
From his office on the ground level of the Harbour Grace Cold Storage facility, he can look out at the wharf or in at the cold storage, giving him a bird’s eye view of the operations at all times. Whether he’s advising the foreman on the workload for the day and planning the crew to service the vessels, or scheduling containers or trucks for transporting product, Bert has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening at any given time.
Asked why he’s worked there for so long; he says he enjoys the challenges that come with the job and the people who work at the cold storage.
“I couldn’t ask for any better people to work with. We have a great crew here. We like a challenge, we have a lot of respect for each other and we are willing to try new things,” he explains.
Being able to work at home has also been important for Bert and his employees. “I’ve lived and raised my family here in Harbour Grace, just a 5-minute drive from the dock,” he adds. “Our employees come from so many nearby towns; Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Victoria, Tilton, Spaniard’s Bay. All over the area.”
Retirement is within sight for Bert and he has a clear message for those coming behind him, “I would recommend working here to anyone. I hope young people continue to see that there is a future here. Getting young people into the fishery nowadays can be hard because sometimes its talked about as an old industry. But what we see here is very modern. The offshore fishery is providing employment to this area and there is a future here for young people.”
Bert is also featured in the Offshore Fishery Association video highlighting the spin-off economy of the sector. Watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wiA2doXxDY