COLOSSAL ships require centimetre-perfect technology — a fact that Terry O’Brien has built a career on.
The former Penshurst man has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to maritime engineering in the development of marine navigation equipment.
It is the latest achievement in Dr O’Brien’s work in developing his dynamic under keel clearance (DUKC) system, which ensures cargo ships have sufficient clearance under their keels to move through shallow entrance channels and waterways.
Dr O’Brien, a former Melbourne University lecturer, said the DUKC technology ensures a ship cannot sail unless it is safe to do so, preventing damage not only to the huge ships but also to the environment.
“To give you a sense of scale, the ships involved can be 300 metres long — double the length of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and 60 metres high — the height of two cricket pitches,” the former academic said.
“When these vessels navigate through relatively shallow waters, it is essential that the ship’s position relative to the bottom of the harbour is known to the nearest centimetre.”
Dr O’Brien grew up in Penshurst, where his son and former upper house MP David O’Brien also resided.
The academic set up his maritime technology business in 1987 after a successful career in academia. Dr O’Brien was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2010 and was inducted into the Australian Maritime Hall of Fame last year.
“It was a great thrill to receive an OAM, so this is an upgrade of sorts,” he said yesterday.
“It’s not to the level of knighthood like Prince Philip earlier in the year but I’m more than happy to stay at this level! At least my award is a lot less controversial than Prince Philip’s.”