The devastating effect of Storm Babet continues to be felt along the Fife coast, where the St Andrews Harbour has been forced to close due to damage caused by the storm.
During Storm Babet, high tides and crashing waves destroyed the north west slipway and damaged the east gate, the loss of the slipway undermining the west end of the small car park. Additionally, a spokesperson for Saint Andrews Harbour Trust said, “[T]he cliff face that supports the path down from the cathedral is damaged and, without further protection, could suffer further erosion as the slipway will no longer take the brunt of the waves”. Now, St Andrews Harbour Trust is warning people to steer clear of the area as a matter of public safety.
A spokesperson said, “We have closed the harbour in line with Maritime Agency requirements. Although it would be unwise to do so, vessels can still come and go at their own risk. As is stated on several signs around the harbour, we would again advise the general public to avoid the waterfront in stormy weather. The simple act of taking photos or going for a walk during high winds and rain may seem harmless but can be extremely dangerous”.
They added, “As part of our ongoing efforts to maintain and improve the harbour, we are now exploring additional funding to support both emergency and long-term repair work, which we estimate costing over £500,000.
“In the meantime, we are also engaging with the Scottish Government, statutory bodies and professional services to plan remedial works but expect further storms will exacerbate the issue before any works can be carried out”.
The closure of the harbour has had a severe impact on St Andrews fishermen.
Robin Lawson, St Andrews Conservative councillor and member of St Andrews Harbour Trust, said, “There are a number of fishing boats that use that harbour and it’s a great shame for them because their livelihood is affected. They and other harbour users are obviously seriously inconvenienced”.
The Courier spoke to John Chater and Gordon Cation, who operate two of the boats in St Andrews, about the impact of the closure.
Charter said, “The harbour is choked. We’ve not been able to earn any money for a good few weeks now. I almost lost my last boat when it became stuck on seaweed, it almost sunk — so this is very serious”.
He added that he hasn’t been able to capitalise on rising lobster prices, losing out on a significant amount of profit. “The prices are even higher than normal because of the weather but a lot of people’s creels have been ruined in the storm.
“I’d hoped to work right up to Christmas so it’s a lot of money to be losing – for me it’s about £1,000 a day”.
Gordon explained that the harbour gates normally clear the water of weed. But the damage has meant that there is no way to clear the bottom of the harbour, and the amount of weed creates dangerous working conditions.
While St Andrews Harbour Trust did say boat operators can use the port, they must do so at their own risk and Gordon doesn’t want to take that chance.
He said, “That’s a risk we’re not prepared to take. We’ve been on the phone to our insurance companies to see if we’ll be covered if we have an accident but they’ve confirmed we won’t be”.
In response to these concerns, a spokesperson for St Andrews Harbour Trust explained that the permission needed to dredge the channel, given by Scotland’s Marine Directorate, is already hard to come by in normal circumstances.
They said, “We have applied for emergency permission to dredge the channel at all tide states to allow the fishermen to return to work, and await their response”.
Image: Jerzy Morkis