18th October 2017

Boats stopped fishing as Toft pier closed

WATCH: Fishermen found themselves barricaded off Toft pier this morning when they turned up for work.

The disgruntled skippers turned up at a meeting of the SIC Harbour Board to find out what was happening after being denied access to their vessels – a barrier having been put up by Malakoff workmen overnight.

Immediately after the meeting the skipper, Peter Reid, Billy Reid and Sidney Johnson, spoke to officials to try and sort out what North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper said was an “unbelievable situation…..I have never seen the like before in my life”.

Fellow North Mainland councillor Andrea Manson said that the council was “bending over backwards” to try and find a solution to what had become an urgent problem.

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Fishermen Peter Reid, Sidney Johnson and Billy Reid.                                           Photo: Peter Johnson

Loss of pier comes as a bad blow to the shell fishermen who are now entering the busiest period of the year in the run up to Christmas when processors have put their prices up to guarantee landings.

Aside from being denied access to their boats – though they should be allowed onto the pier to shift them today – all alternative piers are further away, already full up with vessels and some downright dangerous to use in foul weather.

According to infrastructure services director Maggie Sandison, a surveyor’s report received yesterday said that use of the pier had to stop immediately and that insurers had then withdrawn insurance for the pier, meaning the council had no option but to close it immediately.

But the skippers say that they had received notice of closure of the pier 12 days ago and that should have given the council enough time to put a pontoon in place for them to berth at.

Mrs Sandison also told the meeting that as only a fraction of the landings dues that should have been paid had been declared, it had hindered the council from putting together a proper business case for repairing or otherwise finding a solution to replacing the crumbling structure.

`Mr Cooper said that the fishermen and processors were “falling over themselves” to talk to the council, to which Mrs Sandison replied that she had found out much more about the use of the pier since the decision had been made to close it and that the harbour dues received suggested much lighter use than the fishermen were claiming.

“The evidence we had was that it was not that substantial an asset to the industry”, she added.

Engineers and health and safety officials were to look at the possibility of using the Toft linkspan, where the ferry berths, for landing scallops. Mr Cooper also suggested the vessels could use their own cranes to lift scallops onto the arm of the pier. But that still leaves the three vessels, Planet, Craignair and Golden Shore without anywhere to berth.

Mrs Sandison said that that it would be a day or two before a decision could be made on the use of the linkspan, or other arrangements at Toft. A meeting was also to be had with Shetland Fishermen’s Association on Monday.

Another suggestion was to ask Grieg’s Seafood if it would be possible to share their pier at Setterness as a temporary measure. It will be two weeks before the pontoon can be put in place at Toft where it will be used until a more permanent solution is found.

Mr Cooper said after the meeting that in interim solution was needed. “We need to see if we can get a pier tomorrow and for the next couple of weeks until the council can put in a pontoon at Toft to allow the boats to tie up overnight. We need to see if the Toft ferry teraminal can allow the boats to land their scallops every night when they come in.

“Then we need a long-term solution, which is probably going to take a couple of years, to get a new Toft pier. It’s very hard for the industry trying to work and make money for their families in the run-up to Christmas, and then all of a sudden, this morning they cannot win to their work.”

 

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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4 comments

  1. stephen shirmer

    Priorities first you would think ? a pier that is essential for local boats providing a income and employment.

    Alas not.. plenty of white elephants dotted all over shetland that do not earn a income and cost a fortune

    to run with maintenance and funding with the guarantied prospect of them never earning a profit.

    Sadly the authorities to be appear to think that working for a living is not worth the investment.

    Reply
  2. Ian Tinkler

    Infrastructure director Maggie Sandison said, “the council could justify investing into the Toft pier if fishermen would pay all the levies that were due.”!!
    What a truly extraordinary statement, under the care of the Shetland Island Council, under her watch, the Toft pier has been allowed to decay until it is now dangerous for use! What right has the Council to expect fishermen to pay levies for the use of a structure now deemed so dangerous it has to be closed? All due to the Councils own negligence? Any normal commercial organisation would be taken to law if it behaved in such a way, and sued for such behaviour. People’s legitimate livelihoods put at risk and our own Infrastructure director bleats about non-payment of levies. All at a time when Council reserves grow by £41 million. The Brexit boost? Pity infrastructure can not mend a neglected pier. Tough times for real workers. Fishermen Peter Reid, Sidney Johnson and Billy Reid.

    Reply
  3. John Bain

    At the same time as Shetland Islands Council is claiming that their – sorry OUR oil reserve fund stands at £326,000,000, we find that a small but important part of infrastructure for the fishing industry, namely Toft pier in this instance, has been left to fall into disrepair, is their no one in the SIC who can look past their computer screens to see what is actually happening outside any more ?

    This is not the only example of neglect to be found around Shetland with regard to piers and harbours, does anyone in the Council actually consider what comes after oil and just how important our indigenous fishing industry is now and especially in the future for the whole of Shetland – provided there are harbours and facilities to support it !

    Here in Sandwick we also have a derelict pier / harbour which could have provided shelter for several fishing boats if anyone had had the common sense to see the potential, do we all have to move to Lerwick to take advantage of adequate provision, if so perhaps some one can explain to me what happens to our country districts as a result ?.

    While I don’t want to be disrespectful to any of the many rural areas which have contributed so much to the local economy over the decades, one area which stands out for me is Whalsay, no other area of Shetland has provided so much for the local economy, they still invest in fishing and are a perfect example of what can be achieved, albeit achieved on the backs of their own peoples endeavour and tenacity, any help which can be given to them and potentially other areas in Shetland must be given as a priority , their is no point in boasting about how much money we have “in the bank” if we don’t use it to better our communities .

    SIC, cream of the top of our bank account and put it to better use than providing champagne for fund managers and sundry other wasters in the City of London.

    Reply
  4. Derek McDonald

    Non-payment of dues because a fraction of their landings have been declared. They don’t have a leg to stand on! If it is true they should be chased for what they owe through the courts. How can that behaviour be in any way condoned. If it isn’t true then Mrs Sandison is in trouble but I very much doubt it given the track record of those involved in the fishing industry.

    Reply

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