Moray Council is poised to persevere with its much-maligned dredger after it was revealed that selling it would result in a massive loss.
The Selkie returned to operations this month after being berthed at its home port in Buckie for more than six months after staffing issues forced it out of action.
Now a report has been prepared by council officers detailing the business case for the vessel after accusations it is at risk of becoming a “white elephant”.
Senior officials have stressed that continuing to operate the only publicly-owned dredger in Scotland, which cost £2.8 million to commission, remains the best value for money.
Figures provided to the authority by Macduff Ship Design have valued the Selkie at £1.5 million if it was to be sold now.
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It is estimated that hiring external contractors to dredge the authority’s six harbours would result in an annual bill of about £310,000.
However, the operational budget for the Selkie to do the same job is about two thirds of that total.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter stressed that running the boat remained the most viable option for the authority.
He said: “Most people realise that there have been some challenges with the dredger in its first couple of years of operation but things seem to be getting on track now.
“The strong advice is that it still represents the most cost-effective way to dredge local harbours, which is of course critical to coastal communities and the wider Moray economy.
“We need to maximise its use as much as possible.”
Since returning to operation this month the Selkie has dredged the channel entrance to the port in Buckie and was in Burghead at the weekend.
Interim staffing arrangements with the council’s harbours team and agency employees have been put in place to ensure the boat could return to sea.
Options are currently being drawn up by management to determine how the dredger will be crewed in the long-term.
Councillors are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the vessel.
In a report, the council’s transportation manager Nicola Moss notes: “The dredger continues to operate as set out in the original business case determining the purchase of the vessel.
“Operating the MV Selkie is a more cost effective solution to externally procured dredging services for the conservancy of Moray’s harbours.”