SHETLAND Islands Council has shelled out around £80,000 on surveys of the Toft pier over the last six years.
The local authority also forked out over £9,000 on installing security fences at the pier in December to block off the facility over health and safety fears.
But fishermen who have used the dilapidated structure until recently say the local authority hasn’t actually paid a penny towards repairing the pier.
The figures are included in a freedom of information request seen by Shetland News into the money the council has spent on the Toft pier in the last ten years.
Shellfish workers say the pier has been neglected by the council and doesn’t offer enough to merit a new two per cent ad valorem landing charge voted through by the SIC last week.
In response, the council – which says the under declaration of landings by fishermen has affected investment in the pier – confirmed that the future of the facility will be the subject of a consultation in the coming weeks and months.
It added that the freedom of information data does not cover some routine maintenance done in-house by its own staff.
The figures reveal that the SIC has paid external contractors £94,649.92 for work relating to the Toft pier since 2011, but nearly £26,000 of that was to pay Ocean Kinetics to undertake a survey, pressure clean and thickness test over a period of more than two weeks in 2012.
Between late 2011 and 2013, the council paid R G Jamieson a total of £42,172.86 to undertake surveys.
However, fishermen say the amount of money paid towards repairs of the pier they use is actually zero.
Figures show that in March 2012 a concrete slipway was repaired for around £500, but that was for a section of the pier occasionally used for other activities, such as transporting sheep via boat.
A barrier preventing vehicle access to the pier was fitted in March 2015 at a cost of £940.27, but it was replaced for £263.65 in September that year.
The security fence meanwhile was installed over the space of a week in December last year by Malakoff Ltd for £9,085.17.
Ports and harbours manager John Smith said the SIC will engage in dialogue with fishermen before presenting a report on the pier following May’s council election.
He said over £1,700 had been spent on repairs in recent years, but this figure only includes the slipway work and the barrier installation and replacement.
Pier users say they pay an annual fee to access the facility and they feel this money should be going towards better maintenance.
“In December 2016, the pier was deemed unsafe by council engineers, leading to the closure of the pier to users and councillors were advised of the current situation,” Smith said.
“The future options for Toft pier will also be part of an early report presented to the new council after elections in May 2017. The preparation of this report will include consultations with pier users and other interested parties.
“A pontoon is currently alongside the pier, to allow for some berthing on temporary basis.”
The ports and harbours department added that “they have also undertaken routine maintenance at Toft such as lighting and lifesaving equipment, but this is done in-house using our council staff, and so is not included in the list of external works.”
Skipper of shellfish boat Golden Shore Sidney Johnson said he felt the council’s money could have been better spent.
“Maybe if they had spent £94,000 on the pier first it would still be in service,” he said.
“Now the SIC intends to charge two per cent on gross landings for services that don’t exist. Is this to claw back some of the needless spending? We may not be making a profit on our gross and to be hit with further expenses may put some boats near the edge.”
According to figures published by the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, the north mainland pier is the second most important landing quay for shellfish in Shetland.
The figures show that 14 per cent of all crabs, lobsters and scallops landed in Shetland come ashore at Toft, at a value of around half a million pounds.
Last week industry associations and fishermen reacted with disappointment after the full SIC voted through proposals for the new two per cent shellfish landing charge for 2017/18.
In a joint statement released in response, Shetland Fishermen’s Association and Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation said they would be “seeking a fairer system and a commitment to a better port infrastructure in the months ahead”.
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