Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Revealed: Moray Council pays £250k to crew dredger Selkie for 400 days when vessel does no work

Agency crews were hired for 652 days over the last four years, but the vessel only did 239 days of dredging.

Selkie moored at Buckie Harbour.
Crews have been hired for Selkie when it has remained berthed at Buckie harbour. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Exclusive figures have revealed Moray Council has hired external agency crews to man the Selkie dredger for more than 400 days when it was tied up.

The £2.5 million vessel was launched eight years ago amid promises it would save public cash while also generating extra income.

However, questions persist over whether it is providing value for money with £750,000 spent on external dredgers to maintain ports in the last year.

Now it can be revealed agency crews have been hired for 652 days during the last four financial years – despite Selkie only dredging for 239 days during that time.

Despite the number of days of inaction, Moray Council has stressed the staffing spend on Selkie has remained below budget.

However, the local authority added that work to get the best value from the Selkie, including how it is crewed, is “currently ongoing”.

More than £250,000 spent on Selkie agency crews when not dredging

It is understood that Moray Council hires two members of agency staff for the vessel. This includes a skipper to command the Selkie while it is dredging.

However, one of the posts on it is currently filled by a council employee.

Figures obtained by the Press and Journal through freedom of information reveal £445,607 has been spent on agency staff between 2020/21 and 2023/24.

The total represents an average of £683 per day, and the equivalent of £282,263 for the 413 days Selkie wasn’t dredging – assuming the same amount is spent every day.

Marc Macrae, chairman of Moray Council’s economic development and infrastructure committee, said harbour users had been frustrated by the sight of agency crews not working due to Selkie being out of commission due to mechanical faults.

He said: “The biggest frustration is that we are paying an expensive amount of money for people not to do anything. I think the public would be alarmed by that.

“Time and time again I have heard from people along the coast that there are locally qualified people to operate Selkie, but it is an operational decision to crew it this way.

Selkie dredging off Burghead coast.
Selkie was launched to save Moray Council money. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“Personally, I think it could be done in a more cost-effective way.

“I’ve been frustrated by it since I was elected in 2017. The business case to commission it, before I was elected, was that it would not only save the council money but generate income from external hires, which isn’t happening.

“At a time of tightening budgets we need to make sure we are getting the best value for every public pound.”

Are equipment failures on Selkie contributing to extra spend?

Buckie councillor Sonya Warren has previously raised concerns about the number of days Selkie is operational and the tonnage it is removing from ports.

The SNP member has questioned whether maintenance issues on the vessel are contributing to days of inactivity for agency crew.

She said: “This seems like an extraordinary number of days to be hiring agency crew members for the amount of dredging that has been done.

Buckie councillor Sonya Warren at Buckie Harbour.
Councillor Sonya Warren at Buckie Harbour. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“I would hope they are doing other work in our harbours if they can’t go out due to bad weather.

“The council can’t afford to be spending money on people who could just be sitting about for so long.

“Selkie has been out of action at times due to equipment failures. I’d like to know how many of these days have been caused by maintenance issues.”

The Press and Journal asked Moray Council what duties agency crew carry out when Selkie is not dredging, which the local authority did not address.

However, they explained bad weather, tidal conditions and maintenance issues can cause it to not dredge while crew are onboard.

A spokeswoman added: “Moray Council is currently investigating the most appropriate and best value way to crew the dredger, whether that be agency or council staff and have plans and procedures to ensure that it is being operated in the most efficient way possible. This work is currently ongoing.”

Selkie support from external dredgers

Selkie is based in Buckie and maintains the port as its principal duty with an additional focus on Burghead – spending 210 of its 239 days dredging in the last four years in the two harbours.

During that time it has visited Findochty for 22 days, Portknockie for five days, Hopeman for two days and has not visited Cullen at all.

Barge with two excavators on it in Buckie harbour.
External dredging working from a barge in Buckie harbour in May. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, external dredgers have also been hired at Buckie during the last year to fulfil contractual obligations for a deeper depth.

Two crews have been brought in at a total spend of about £750,000 to perform tasks Selkie is not capable of to meet the requirements of renewables firm Ocean Winds.

Read more about the Selkie.