Our People: Celebrating a life on the wharf
Ray Spain (second from right) up a crane at LPC.

For the last 42 years, Ray Spain has called LPC home, working as a crane driver since February 1980.

A third-generation port worker, his impressive career came to an end this month when he retired.

When Ray started at LPC, then the Harbourboard, there’s no question things looked a lot different.

“It was still a busy place back then, but the container terminal had only just opened.

“We had 33 cranes around the harbour and we loaded all sorts including meat and pallets.

Ray, who had his heavy truck, and trailer licence at the time, worked all around the Port.

“There was also a great variety of work. You didn’t just drive the cranes, but all the machinery”.

“I used to work a lot in the coal yard with the front-end loaders and graders. In the 80’s the coal loader wasn’t just used for coal, but a range of this like bark chips, wheat and maple peas.”

Looking back at his time, one thing that has stuck with him is the day the crane was knocked over in 1985.

“I remember the sound it made so clearly there was a huge roar and I turned around and all you could see was a cloud of dust”

Just moments before, a vessel that was berthing, hit the crane, causing it to fall over.

As soon as the shock had passed, Ray went to see if everyone was ok.

“It was a terrible thought that people could be trapped in there.

“That day, the vessel that caused the damage was late, so everyone had actually gone to have breakfast and very luckily no one got hurt.”

That’s not the only tough time that Ray has gone through, having been here for the earthquakes as well.

“I came in most days after the quakes to help the team get the port running again – the terminal was such a mess. It was quite a scary time with the aftershocks too.

“But that’s when you realise the ports got to keep going because people need you.

“The amount of people you impact in your role stretches far beyond the port and you’re not just doing it for you, but for the whole of Canterbury.

In those moments, Ray credits the people he works with for helping him get through.

Ray Spain (middle) with other ex-LPC employees.

“It’s a great workforce we have here with the team, I’ve really made friends for life.

“There’s such a strong sense of loyalty and working here for as long as I have, there’s a lot of trust and respect too.

“I also loved being a member of RMTU for 42 years as well and I was proud to be a delegate on the executive.”

Through countless nightshifts, a few strikes, natural disasters and a changing industry, Ray has no regrets.

“It’s been amazing to watch the port grow and change, I really loved my job here, you would have to to stay this long.

Although Ray is stepping into retirement, he will have plenty to keep himself busy.

“I always like to be doing something, at the moment, that will be spending more time on my racing pigeons, with my family and fishing on the West Coast.

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