The Mail visited Barrow Docks in 1997 as part of its Working Day series.

It reported that, as the port manager and harbour master since 1988, Captain John Green had the responsibility for running the day port, which was one of 22 ports owned by Associated British Ports.

Captain Green oversaw the whole operation while Bob Fawcett, deputy harbour master, managed the maritime side of the docks.

Running the port was a round-the-clock job for the 37 staff. The most important job was to open the dock gate two and a half hours before high water.

The pier head had to be manned permanently by four people.

Those on duty surveyed the eight-mile channel out to Lightning Knott and managed the dredging of the channel.

This was carried out at intervals on behalf of the Ministry of Defence for the Trident submarines.

'No day is ever the same as the docks don't have a scheduled service and are very much at the mercy of the weather,' reported The Mail. 'Ships can be delayed as a result of bad conditions at sea which means the volume of traffic varies.'

Bob Fawcett agreed that quite a lot of time was spent twiddling thumbs "One day three ships might dock in but often it is a matter of just watching the tide and keeping an eye on the weather."

The daily work at the port was driven by the tides.

One job that was carried out fairly regularly was surveying the dock sides, and high tides were a cause for concern as they presented a danger to the sea defences, particularly with strong winds driving them on.

Captain Green was confident about the port's long-term future.

He was hoping the docks could enter into the domestic cruise liner market with Barrow's proximity to the tourist haven of the Lakes.

Another aim was to support off shore exploration and production in the Irish Sea.