Bad weather is hindering dredging work at Moray harbours.
While conditions may be suitable for clearing silt and sand to maintain access for boats, swell and poor visibility is sometimes hampering the dumping of sediment at sea.
Materials from dredging at Buckie, Burghead, Cullen, Findochty, Hopeman and Portknockie harbours are deposited at designated sites around two to three miles offshore.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of Moray Council economic development and infrastructure committee.
Licensing constraints affecting dredging
Members heard that even if the authority’s dredger Selkie is fully operational, digging is not always possible due to licensing constraints at the dump sites.
Buckie councillor Tim Eagle asked whether the licensing conditions could be reviewed with Marine Scotland.
Transportation manager Nicola Moss said it is unlikely the council could challenge rules covering safety and environmental protection.
She said: “They are around the weather conditions at the disposal site in terms of swell and visibility.
“There have been times when the conditions have been suitable to dredge, but the conditions at the dump site are just not suitable in terms of the licence stipulations.”
Committee chairman Graham Leadbitter said people may have concerns about the work rate of the dredger.
However, there were factors, such as the sea swell at the dump site, they may not know about.
He added: “It helps to explain the complexity of our dredging operation.”
The Selkie was commissioned five years ago as Scotland’s only local authority-owned dredger to reduce maintenance bills for harbours.
Dredger did not meet target
Meanwhile, Heldon and Laich councillor John Cowe asked if the Moray dredger had to be moored at Buckie.
He said: “If so, can it be changed so the Selkie is insured to be berthed in either of our commercial harbours to save journeying between Buckie and Burghead on an ongoing basis?”
Mrs Moss explained the dredger could dock anywhere appropriate, but it is not allowed to touch the bottom of the harbour when berthed.
She said: “At the moment we’re not able to access our mooring because there has been some considerable movement of sand at Burghead.
“As soon as we are able to safely moor at Burghead we will be back mooring at Burghead and carrying out much more efficient operations.”