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Transport / High tides and low pressure created ‘perfect storm’

Toft ferry terminal earlier in February this year. Photo: Shetland News

THE EFFECT rising sea levels coupled with high tides could have on Shetland’s ferries was raised in the council chamber earlier this week.

Lerwick councillor Amanda Hawick raised the subject at a meeting of the council’s harbour board on Wednesday, saying a recent video showed vehicles having to drive though a flood of water to get onto the ferry – something she would be a “peerie bit hesitant” to do herself.

She asked harbourmaster Greg Maitland if the high tides of the last couple of months, married with long-term rising sea levels, was a concern for ferry staff.

He conceded there was no “one answer” to the issue, but he said spring high tides and low pressure had created a “perfect storm”.

High tides have caused a significant impact in recent weeks, with localised flooding reported in areas around Shetland.

Areas close to the sea like Hay’s Dock in Lerwick flooded on more than one occasion.

While the ferries getting seawater onboard in bad weather is nothing new, recent pictures did show for instance high tides encroaching onto the vehicle waiting area at the Toft ferry terminal.

“We just have to monitor and see at what point this is a regular occurrence and not a one-off,” Maitland concluded.

Infrastructure director John Smith said all coastal areas were at risk, with scenario planning on the mind of the council.

Maitland, meanwhile, said the ports and harbours team is “doing everything we are required to do” regarding the outbreak of coronavirus.

He said cruise vessels are more likely to be affected than tankers coming into Sullom Voe, for instance, which spend long periods at sea during which symptoms would likely emerge.

“We are doing what we can to be proactive,” Maitland added.