A Moray councillor has called for answers about the usefulness of the controversial dredger owned and operated by the local authority.
The £2.4 million vessel, called the Selkie, was purchased by Moray Council to save money, while also bringing in cash by being hired out by private ports and neighbouring councils.
However, last week the Press and Journal revealed fishermen working out of Burghead Harbour were concerned about their livelihood due to a lack of dredging at the entrance to the site.
Sand and salt built up over time causing access problems, with one boat, the Just Reward being grounded for 11 hours at the entrance until other boats managed to drag it out.
The Selkie has been marooned at Buckie Harbour for the past few months.
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Marc Macrae is hopeful a report due to go before members next month will allay fishermen’s fears about the safety of their harbours.
He said: “Fishing is without doubt one of the most dangerous occupations and clearly it is important for crews to know that they can safely enter and leave a commercial port without risk of injury or even worse the potential loss of a vessel.
“To hear that a vessel was grounded at the entrance to Burghead harbour for over 11 hours is clearly a concern which requires further investigation and if proven to be as a result of a lack of dredging then lessons must be learnt and fast to ensure that no such situation occurs again at Burghead or any other port along the Moray coast.
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“Moray Council are the statutory harbour authority for six harbours which cater for both the leisure market and thriving commercial sector and with vessel owners paying harbour dues to berth at these ports they clearly expect a level of service which allows them safe passage to and from the harbour.
“It is very easy for people to see that it has remained berthed in Buckie harbour for some considerable time and at a time when the local authority is facing significant budget constraints it is right that people expect council assets to be providing a fit and proper service whilst delivering value for money.”
A report into the dredger’s performance is expected to be presented at the audit and scrutiny committee meeting in February.