A day in the life of… Fiona Brown, Graduate Hydrographer, Cardiff

Other Businesses

ABP Property

Our property division brings together an unrivalled land bank spanning 21 multi-modal locations around the country, with 960 hectares of port-based development land.


Drawing on 60 years of experience, ABP Marine Environmental Research (ABPmer) provides specialist marine environmental research and consultancy services.

UK Dredging

UK Dredging (UKD) operates the largest British-owned dredging fleet and specialises in the provision of reliable and cost effective port maintenance dredging services.

Can you tell us more about what you did before you joined ABP?

Before joining ABP, I graduated with a 1st class BSC Marine Geography degree from Cardiff University. My degree included a one year work placement as a trainee surveyor for an environmental survey company, which involved surveying coastal areas around the UK. I enjoyed working by the coast and on the sea as it provided a unique working experience, sometimes with challenging conditions. My university course meant I developed relevant knowledge and skills, including the opportunity to go out on the university boat to conduct surveys. It was a ‘taster’ for the work I now do. I have brought these skills into my role at ABP/UK Dredging and continue to develop them daily.

What did you find most appealing about a Graduate role at ABP?

A major draw to the graduate role at ABP was the opportunity to experience a variety of different fields within the port industry that I find interesting. Whilst I will work primarily with the hydrographic survey team within UKD, I will also have the chance to experience environmental consultancy and survey with ABPmer. Additionally, I will spend time with ABP’s business strategy team in London. I wanted to be part of something important and the port industry is a vital aspect of the UK and global economy – it supports businesses and people all over the world. In addition, ABP is a leading developer of green energy which sits well with me as a keen environmentalist.

During my final year at University I heard about the Graduate roles at ABP through my Cardiff University Tutor.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? Has the current Covid-19 pandemic impacted your activities in any way?

Within my role at UK Dredging, if the weather is good enough, a typical day for me often involves a survey of harbours, channels or/and approaches. Even with the current Covid restrictions surveys still need to be completed to allow for safe port access. I will then perform quality checks and process the data collected. Depth data is submitted to the harbour master who will issue charts for safe navigation of all port users and consider whether or not dredging is necessary.

Throughout the day data will be sent to us from other ABP survey teams in ports around the UK, we will process the data received and upload results onto a portal where the UK Dredging vessel fleet can access the latest depth data enabling them to dredge accordingly and efficiently. The data generated is also used to undertake volume calculations to assess amount of material removed or accumulated, which impacts the amount of time that a dredging vessel is required.

What’s the most exciting project you are currently working on?

UKD have recently invested in a new multi-beam sonar system, which is used to measure depths and map the seabed. It will allow more detailed charts and maps to be produced as it emits pulses in a wide swathe beneath the ship’s hull as opposed to a single pulse from single beam echo sounders. I have been involved throughout the installation and testing process, which included scanning our main survey vessel to create an accurate 3D image which can be used for measurements and offsets.

On top of my day to day work, I am also involved with the team working on ABP’s diversity in Maritime action plan working towards gaining Women in Maritime Charter Company status for ABP Ports. The aim of this is to attract and encourage more young women to pursue careers in the maritime industry.

If you could give some advice to young people interested in pursuing a similar career path, what would it be?

Be open to trying new things and get stuck in! Although some tasks may appear menial, these are often the building blocks for understanding important concepts and operational success. Ask questions and be curious! It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business for, a fresh set of eyes can help improve processes and safety for yourself and other colleagues.

Applications for ABP’s Graduate Training Scheme are open until Sunday, 28th March 2021. Find out more and apply here.