By NEIL RIDDELL
A DOWNTURN in harbour activity at Sullom Voe means the SIC’s ports and harbours operation could be in line to be brought under the wing of the infrastructure services department, The Shetland Times can reveal.
It was confirmed this week that the council’s chief executive Morgan Goodlad is looking into the possibility of consolidating the harbour operation within the infrastructure department at Grantfield, in a move designed to reduce costs in light of a steep fall in the number of tankers coming into Sullom.
In 1985-6, the busiest year for the terminal, 800 tankers came into the port but last year that had slumped to just 199 and harbour master Jim Dickson said that figure was likely to fall further again this year.
The review has also been prompted by the impending retirement of two key long-serving senior officials. Mr Dickson is due to retire in November after five years as general manager of ports and harbours, while executive services director for infrastructure Graham Spall, who has been in his post for the past eight years, will finish up in September.
Recruitment adverts for both posts have yet to appear as the council considers ways of restructuring, though head of environment and building services Stephen Cooper is being tipped as a potential replacement for Mr Spall.
Mr Goodlad was on holiday this week and unavailable for comment, while his stand-in Mr Spall was also off work due to illness, but infrastructure services chairman Allan Wishart confirmed that a merger of the two departments was a possible option.
He said: “I’m not sure how far it has gone but it’s in the overall aim of trying to consolidate and trying to make things more efficient.”
As a general rule the amount of harbour traffic at Sullom has been slipping by around 5-10 per cent year on year and Mr Wishart said it seemed “an ideal time” to have a review, but there had been no mention of any further job losses as a result of the possible merger.
He added: “I think it’s good that we do review things and look at ways that they can be improved. If they can’t be, we leave them alone, but I certainly don’t think we should continue doing things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done.”
When Mr Goodlad first took the helm as chief executive in 1999, he gained swift approval for his proposal to consolidate a number of different departments in order to help streamline the council’s operations and, following further changes in recent years, there are now three main departments.
Executive services is headed by Mr Goodlad and includes finance, capital programmes and the housing service, legal and admin and organisational development.
Hazel Sutherland was last year appointed as executive director of educational and social care, which includes schools, adult learning, children’s services, community care and criminal justice.
The infrastructure services department incorporates environment and building services, planning, roads and transport. Ports and harbours and the economic development unit at North Ness both remain separate entities from the three large departments.