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Marine / ‘Debris from grounded boat’ causing concern on the west side

Coastguard says the area is being monitored monthly and after ‘significant storms’

The scene at Papa Little last weekend before the clean-up. Photo: Keith Nicolson

CONCERNS have been raised over the amount of debris washed on beaches on the west side which may have come from the fishing vessel Coelleira after it ran aground off Shetland in August.

Photos taken by Keith Nicolson at the weekend shows a west-facing beach at Papa Little, an uninhabited island north of Aith, strewn with items like wood, pieces of insulation and lumps of hard nylon.

Debris on the Papa Little beach. Photo: Keith Nicolson

Nicolson believes the debris washed up from the UK-flagged Coelleira after it ran aground on the Vee Skerries near Papa Stour in August.

Attempts were made by the coastguard to refloat the boat after its 15 crew were airlifted to safety, but they failed, meaning that the 30m vessel was left to succumb to the elements.

Nicolson, from Aith, visited Papa Little on Saturday by boat with his son and “couldn’t believe the amount of debris” washed up.

Also included in the bruck was four “new looking” rubber boots – further increasing the belief that the items were from the Coelleira.

“I was disappointed to see it,” Nicolson said.

“It would be fine to know that somebody will be cleaning it up.”

He said there is often bruck washing up on Papa Little in the winter, “but nothing like that”.

Nicolson added that he also recently came across bits of sheet plastic in among pebbles on nearby island Vementry.

The Coelleira pictured by Simmer Dim Charters on 18 September.

The Lerwick based vessel Constructor took on guard duties in the days after the grounding and was said to be involved in recovering debris and oil, but it is no longer on scene.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), however, said that monthly monitoring of the vessel and her surroundings started on 7 September.

“This is a baseline monthly visual assessment to take place over the winter and include nearby shorelines and the impact of any potential debris on wildlife,” they said.

“There will also be a surface visual survey after significant storms. This was most recently completed after Storm Dorian passed through the area and there was no noticeable degradation.

The boat pictured back in early August after it grounded on rocks. Photo: Simmer Dim Charters

“In addition, Marine Scotland has agreed in principle to allow their Watchdog aircraft to have a look on an opportunity basis.”

The coastguard, meanwhile, said that recovering debris is only the vessel owner’s responsibility if it is proven to be from the boat.

“Only debris that is proven to originate from a vessel would be the owners’ responsibility to recover,” the spokesperson said.

“If the source of the debris cannot be proven, debris which ends up on land becomes the landowner’s responsibility for disposal.

“Debris in the water (unless in a harbour authority area) will be assessed on a case by case basis by the MCA and if proven to be FV Coelleira related will be recovered under direction of the vessel’s owners/insurers.”