‘Unsafe’ pier closed prompting fury from isles shell fishermen
Isles shell fishermen are up in arms after Toft pier in the North Mainland was deemed unsafe and Shetland Islands Council has decided to close it.
The council announced this week that the pier was not safe for further use, although fishermen say it has been long neglected, with holes in it and with eroding sheet piling.
Sidney Johnson from Sullom, skipper of the Golden Shore, said he was told by agent LHD that he could no longer berth at the pier.
According to an email sent on Monday, seen by The Shetland Times, the council has judged that the pier is unsafe for further use, following surveys of the structure.
The email stated that the SIC was to arrange for signs and fencing to be put in place and LHD fishermen have been told to stop using it. From a health and safety view the council stated that it had no other choice.
In the email the council added that it would be happy to help other options that might be possible.
Mr Johnson believes the council has not managed the pier properly and there had been no attempt by the local authority to contact the fishermen.
He has used the pier for the last 10 years and he said he and other fishermen had been left in the dark.
“If they [the council] dealt with this problem two years ago this problem would not have existed,” he said.
Mr Johnson said four or five boats used the pier regularly, with scallops landed there.
Fishermen were under no illusions and knew the pier was not in great condition but the other options of Sellaness and Collafirth were full, he said.
There’s nowhere else for us to go. That’s a fact – SIDNEY JOHNSON
“There’s nowhere else for us to go,” said Mr Johnson.
The angry fisherman said there would also be a knock-on effect with fish processing and the community.
In February councillors voted in favour building a new pier, estimated to cost between £1.5 and £2 million, if it matched up with requirements of a council business plan.
However, Mr Johnson feared a replacement pier “has been shelved”. He said fisherman could work with a pontoon, although it would not be suitable for landing fish.
Mr Johnson and other users of the pier are considering making repairs themselves.
He said the first hole was caused about two years ago by a forklift truck which went through the surface of the pier, which was above the safe loading limit of 2.5 tonnes put in place by the SIC.
“We’re not going anywhere until they give us an alternative, and a good alternative,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mossbank man Arnie Hansen has spent £50,000 on a boat which arrived this week to operate an angling business and attract tourists.
“It’s a bolt out of the blue,” Mr Hansen said. “It’s going to be no good for anybody. What am I going to do with it? I can’t start a new business because there’s going to be no bloody pier and no place to keep it.”
QA Fish director Robert Williamson said his company takes scallops from two or three boats which land at the pier.
“If the boats have nowhere to land then we don’t get the scallops in and that’s a huge impact on our business because scallops are a big part,” Mr Williamson said.
Sheltand North councillor Alastair Cooper said in all honesty the council had not properly maintained the pier.
“The fact is the pier has not been properly maintained over the years and we have a structure now which is unsafe,” he said.
Toft pier fell within the Sullom Voe harbour area, Mr Cooper explained, which meant that maintenance and replacement costs came out of the SIC’s harbour account, rather than coming from Shetland taxpayers.
“The recommendation that was put to members is that the replacement of the Toft pier had to be subject to a five-point business plan,” Mr Cooper said.
“So far officers have not been able to find sufficient benefits arising from the use of the pier which could result in spending the £2 million for a new one.”
Councillor Amanda Westlake, also a member of the SIC harbour board, said there was opportunity for the council to work with fisherman, the industry and the harbour board for the future of the the pier and the fishing industry.
• For full story, see this week’s Shetland Times