Callum’s story

Callum MacDonald

Apprentice Operator, Oil and Pipelines Agency (OPA)

Loch Ewe Oil Fuel Depot, Aultbea, Ross-Shire, Scotland

A statutory public corporation, the OPA manages, operates and maintains six Naval Oil Fuel Depots around the UK on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. 

Needless to say, there are limited job opportunities for school leavers when you live in a remote village in the North West Highlands of Scotland like Callum.

Having decided that he didn’t want to go to university or join the local fishing fleets he was interested to read in the local paper that the OPA’s Loch Ewe Oil Fuel Depot near to where he lived was looking for apprentices. Callum applied, was accepted, and started as an Apprentice Operator at the depot in August 2020. 

Located on the eastern shore of the loch, the site operates as a diesel fuel depot for the Royal Navy, NATO vessels and storage facility for commercial clients. Callum says he is really enjoying his apprenticeship and being able to earn a salary while getting valuable on-the-job experience. He particularly likes working as part of a team and learning new skills. 

As an apprentice operator Callum assists with the inspection and general maintenance of depot infrastructure and also receives on-site training in critical health and safety procedures and equipment, such as air-breathing apparatus. Due to the volume of fuel stored at the depot Loch Ewe is classified as an Upper Tier Site under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH). Given the remote location, day-release training for his apprenticeship is not an option so Callum travels to a college in north east England to complete his technical studies in four-week blocks. 

Once he has successfully passed his 30-month apprenticeship Callum will be a fully qualified Oil Fuel Depot Operator. Looking ahead, he says the OPA is already planning the next step in his career which would be an AP (Authorised Person) course. This would extend Callum’s qualifications to include overseeing the safe working of contractors on site and Permit to Work documentation.

Callum says he would recommend the tank storage industry to anyone who is looking for an interesting and rewarding career. With the OPA’s support and encouragement he is looking forward to progressing through the industry and maybe even exploring opportunities overseas.

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