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Inspection team to visit north-east harbour following safety fears

Skipper and owner John Clark on the Reliance 2 at MacDuff harbour, MacDuff. 

Picture by Jim Irvine  11-4-17
Skipper and owner John Clark on the Reliance 2 at MacDuff harbour, MacDuff. Picture by Jim Irvine 11-4-17

A team from the national maritime agency will visit a north-east harbour today amid safety concerns raised by fishermen.

Trawlermen working out of Macduff have repeatedly raised concerns about the lack of night watchmen at the port.

Initially, Aberdeenshire Council wanted to axe the service but abandoned the proposal after harbour users mounted a campaign and gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition.

Two staff now carry out the role, but there are fears that if one is off there is not enough cover to ensure patrols are carried out between 5pm and midnight.

Risks to the harbour without adequate watchman cover include damage to boats caused by vandals and increased chances of injury for boat users.

Today, a team from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will come to the council-run harbour to assess the quayside as part of a so-called “health check”.

John Clark, who operates his boat out of Macduff, believes council officials do not understand what it takes to run a safe harbour.

He welcomed news of the visit, and said: “In Macduff itself we have a brilliant harbour master and things are going really well.

“Our problem lies with council officers who have zero maritime experience and are putting forward suggestions to save money which could cause problems at the harbour for safety.

“When they took the decision to axe the night watchmen council officers didn’t take any risk assessments.

“We would like to see a lot more decisions being taken in Macduff by the harbour master and not someone sitting in an office in Banff.”

The MCA will be checking if Macduff Harbour complies with the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC).

It applies to all harbour authorities in the UK that have statutory powers and duties and establishes a national standard for every aspect of port marine safety.

A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said they were confident they were not breaking any of the legislation’s rules.

He said: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency will be at Macduff Harbour today to carry out a health check, as described in the Port Marine Safety Code.

“We have appointed a new designated person at the harbour and have made other changes to improve compliance with the code, so we’re confident our practises are in line with guidance.

“However, if the MCA makes any suggestions to further improve compliance, we will of course work with it to implement any improvements.”

Last night, a spokeswoman for the MCA said the trip to the north-east was a routine visit.

She said: “The MCA’s Navigation Safety Branch are scheduled to undertake a PMSC health-check at Macduff Harbour this week.

“This is a routine visit, and forms one of the eight PMSC health-checks that the MCA are required to complete each year to verify ongoing compliance with the code.”

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