Emergency dredging has taken place at Gutcher Ferry Terminal to remove a build-up of gravel that was causing damage to the underside of ferries.
The problem became apparent last year when damage to the ferries in Bluemull Sound was reported. The vessels were touching the seabed on the final approach to the Gutcher linkspan, and ferry crews reported a shallow bar of shingle and gravel in the middle of the berth. This was confirmed by a diving survey.
If left untreated, the bar could have caused extensive damage to the stern gear of the vessels, resulting in expensive repairs in dry dock.
Port engineering leader Andrew Inkster told a meeting of the harbour board on Tuesday that dredging from the shore was not possible, but he located a suitable barge-mounted dredger in Buckie Harbour. He said he had to “move fast” as the dredger was due to go to the continent.
The dredger arrived and removed 400 tonnes of material in one night shift. This was disposed of at a site in Yell. The whole operation cost £27,482, and the dredged area now has a depth of three and a half metres below chart datum, that is, below the lowest possible low tide.
Mr Inkster said the build-up of material had been caused by the tide. Hydrographic surveys of ferry terminals and smaller ports had now started to see if the seabed had changed.