‘It is an honour and a privilege to be part of Britain’s oldest business, going back 900 years, but we must move with the times and create berthage for the biggest vessels, including cruise ships,’ she says. ‘Aberdeen will boast a unified port fit to be the biggest and best in the UK. We already have ships coming from 37 countries around the world but as they get bigger, so we have to be able to accommodate 300-metre vessels. To give you an idea of the scale of the operation, one of the new quays at the South harbour will be longer than the Titanic.’
However, Michelle strikes a note of caution about this massive investment. ‘The stakes are high. We have taken out loans from the likes of the European Investment Bank, a bold move by our board who are part of the trust running the harbour.’
We meet in her spacious o ice overlooking the harbour from where the Hjaltland ferry for Shetland will leave at teatime. Understandably, her desk is well back from the sealed windows so she is not distracted by the comings and goings.
A Mancunian, Michelle is a bit of a high flier, if you pardon the pun, having worked in aviation for 17 years and in rail transport. Latterly, she had a spell in Australia running the Sydney Ferries, one of the largest water services in the world, before being headhunted to a senior role in the o shore helicopter business in Aberdeen in April, 2015.
Michelle is married and lives near Banchory with her husband and three stepsons. ‘I just love this part of the world, what with the dazzling countryside and the proximity of the sea. Visitors are staggered to see a harbour packed with vessels in the heart of the city.’
She is a keen skier but her golf does not match her abilities on the slopes. ‘I am a very bad golfer,’ she says. Heavens above, what is the world coming to when such a talented all-rounder as Michelle admits to a Scottish audience that she is well below par at something?