Whitby’s harbour has been silting up for months as the town waits for the return of its broken dredger – and it will be weeks before it is back in action.
The vessel is undergoing repairs and modifications in Hull and is not set to be operational for weeks.
Concerns have been raised by the fishing community about the shallow water depth in the harbour, caused by the build-up of silt.
There is a notice to mariners issued over summer warning of the reduced water depth.
Portfolio Holder for Project Leadership, Harbours, Coast and Flood Protection, Cllr Mike Cockerill, said: “At the moment the dredger is in Hull being modified and having an excavator fitted to it.
“All going according to plan it should be back in Whitby before Christmas.
“For funding the repairs, about £400,000 has been funded out of a reserve that we have been building up for the dredger. The shortfall was topped up by the general harbour reserve.”
But Committee Member for the Fight4Whitby group, John Freeman, says it has taken too long to get to this stage: “It has taken from May until now to send the dredger to be repaired, which is just not on.
"That’s not good housekeeping and it’s poor management. Look at Bridlington, it’s managed in a much more successful way so they can afford to spend £1.2 million on a dredger.”
The initial problems with the dredger became apparent while it was working at another harbour earlier this year.
The current work being done to it will involve removing one of the two parts of the old vessel to mount the excavator section onto one single unit.
Cllr Cockerill said this will give the vessel “a far better dredging capability, because it has a longer reach”.
In the past few months some fishermen have been worried about leaving the harbour during low water for fear of hitting the bottom.
A notice to mariners issued by the Deputy Harbour Master said the “navigable depth of water between the pier extensions and in the upper harbour main channel adjacent to the East and West pontoons has reduced due to siltation.”
The notice added: “The affected areas will be dredged at the earliest opportunity and this notice shall remain in force until corrective works have been undertaken.”
Whitby harbour requires dredging to maintain adequate water depth and to prevent the blockage of the river mouth by the drift of sand brought in by the tide.
Regular dredging of the harbour meant the HMS Endeavour replica was able to come to town in 1997.