Scarborough Council cabinet back plans for harbour dredger to be managed by third party

Scarborough Council’s cabinet has backed a plan to turn over the management of its harbour dredger to an outside company as it looks to solve a shortfall of qualified masters to operate the vessel.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 4:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 4:10 pm
The Sandsend dredger. Photo: Scarborough Council

The cabinet approved the start of a tendering process for a Ship Management Agreement with a third party, which could see the dredger, called the Sandsend, taken to other ports around the coast as a way of creating new income for the authority.

The Sandsend dredges Whitby and Scarborough harbours to keep channels open for vessels to use. Annually, approximately 50,000 tonnes and 10,000 tonnes of spoil is removed from the respective ports.

Deputy Harbour Master Chris Burrows told the cabinet today that it was proving expensive to hire temporary masters for the dredger since the previous master left in April.

He said: “If we were to continue the recruitment process it is highly unlikely anything would change.

“The main advantage of the Ship Management Agreement is that we would gain access to that management group’s pool of staff; we don’t have issues where a master would leave and we would be left without any qualified.

“Somebody will ask the question of why the qualified mariners in the harbour office cannot do this. We have stepped in in the past as much as possible to keep the dredging system going but, unfortunately, we can only do so much. We’ve kept it going but as a long-term solution, it is not sustainable.”

Capt Burrows added that while the dredger could be used by other ports under the arrangement as a way to bring in extra revenue, Scarborough and Whitby would always have priority.

He said that it could lead to the dredger becoming “cost neutral” to the council.

The plans had been discussed with the Whitby Harbour Users Group, though the cabinet heard that Scarborough Harbour’s group had disbanded previously and was not replaced.

Notices had instead been placed in the harbour to make users aware of the council’s intentions.

Cllr Bill Chatt (Cluster of Independent Members) said he had been approached by a resident of his ward who was concerned about the decision.

Cllr Chatt asked the cabinet to send the decision to the council’s Scrutiny Committee to examine the options and involve harbour users in order to be “open and transparent”.

In response, council leader Cllr Steve Siddson (Lab) said: “This is an operational matter and, at the end of the day, harbour users want a usable harbour and they are not going to get one unless we resolve this problem.”

The cabinet voted to move ahead with the tender process.