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Council / New Toft pier opens four and half years after old pier was blocked off

Lindsay Laurenson of Blueshell Mussels and SIC councillor Alastair Cooper at the pier during an opening ceremony on Monday. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE NEW £3.5 million Toft pier was officially opened this afternoon (Monday) almost a full year after its initial completion date of August 2020.

The new pier, which replaces a previous structure which had been deemed unsafe, is seen as a major boost to the inshore fishing fleet but also to the aquaculture industry.

Public access to the busy but crumbling pier was blocked off in December 2016, creating some controversy in fishing circles.

Now, four and half years later, it is expected to become once again a major landing spot for local shellfish boats.

First to use the new facility was local mussel farming firm Blueshell, landing nine tonnes of mussels ready to go on the overnight ferry to Aberdeen.

Overseeing the transfer of the large bags filled with mussels, the company’s operations manager Lindsay Laurenson said the new pier makes landing produce easier and safer.

“It is just so much easier to work from here, and it is a fine sheltered pier where you leave a boat overnight too,” he said.

“There will be possibly more shellfish boats based here. I think the new pier could well be the springboard for a few new things. It’s been four and half years that the pier has been here and it is good thing that it is back.

“This is a really good pier as far as logistics goes; it is an easy place to get to and it is nearer to where the activity is taking place.”

Initially priced at £3 million, with one million coming from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), work to demolish the old structure got under way in September 2019 after Shetland Islands Council had contracted Teignmouth Maritime Services from Devon to rebuild the pier.

However, poor winter weather, unforeseen ground conditions and Covid-19 restrictions all contributed to an additional cost of half a million pounds, while the timetable for completion slipped to spring this year.

Compared to the old structure which had been built in the 1970 the working area of the new pier is at 1,100 square metres around three times larger, and also includes shore power and lighting.

The pier design also includes a 30-metre ‘dog-leg’ extension which will provide more berthing space for boats and better shelter in poor weather, as well as increased water depth on both the inside and outside of the pier.

Chair of the council’s harbour board Andrea Manson said there had been calls for a replacement pier since the new ferry terminal was built at Toft in 2004.

“I’m delighted that the council has been able to fund and oversee the construction of this new pier,” she said.

“Maritime and coastal industries are so important to our community and they are well supported by the council’s management of several ports and harbours around Shetland.”

North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper added that he had a long battle to get the money for the infrastructure project approved: “There was a genuine belief in the council that it wasn’t needed, yet the new pier will make industry work better and more efficiently.

“I’m confident that this pier will help to create and sustain a diversified economy in the North Mainland.”

The council’s port and harbours service has issued a notice to mariners, advising mariners that vessels can now berth on the pier from today.