Long-awaited dredging work should get under way shortly in the south mouth of Skerries harbour after an EU grant completed the funding package for the £286,000 project.
The Shetland Islands Council project will improve the navigation options for boats approaching the harbour in difficult sea conditions, including the council ferry Filla. It provides an alternative to the north-east channel which can be unsafe in northerly gales.
Only about 100 tonnes of material has to be removed but the channel is close to the protected wreck of the Dutch East-Indiaman ship Kennemerland, which sank there in 1664.
SIC capital programme manager Robert Sinclair said the quantity of material to be dredged was relatively small but the proximity to the wreck and the need to bring in substantial plant and equipment for the job had added to the complexity of the project.
Consent was required from the government and from Historic Scotland, which has been an awkward government agency for the council to deal with over the years.
The restrictions caused by the wreck also added to the expense of the job and caused delays because it was put out to tender twice and came in too expensive both times, requiring the budget to be increased by £40,000.
Mr Sinclair said on Monday the £71,550 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was “very welcome news”, although it was first reported three months ago.
“Subject to finalising the required consents we can now begin work in Skerries,” he said.
SIC harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson said the dredging was “an important step towards improving transport links and accessibility to Skerries”.
The work was campaigned for by retired Whalsay and Skerries councillor Josie Simpson from the start of his period on the local authority.