Gills Harbour Works Repair Storm Damage
30th March 2014
Works have been going on at the Inner Basin of Gills Harbour, on the North coast of Caithness, during the past few weeks.
The project, which is being undertaken mostly using large back-hoe excavators, is mainly aimed at removing boulders and loose jagged rocks from the Basin's sea-floor.
Those became scattered on the seabed there as a result of the exceptional sea-storms of the winter of 2012/13 and caused obstructions to the small fleet of registered creel-boats based at Gills.
The remedial contract, at the Scottish Mainland's most Northerly port, is being undertaken by Pentland Ferries Ltd's Gills Harbour-based 'direct labour squad', under foreman Donnie Shearer, of Upper Warse, Canisbay. It includes repairs to re-instate resulting storm-damage.
The project at the community-owned small port has been awarded grants totalling £25,000:00 from Marine Scotland's Fishery Harbours section, from its 'emergency winter storm-damage restoration fund'. It is designed to remove the offending materials from the Inner Basin 'to maintain its continued safe operation'.
The undertaking has had a tight deadline, with works to be concluded 'by the end of the 2013/14 financial year'.
Mr Bill Mowat, Gills Harbour Ltd's chairman, said that its fishing-boat operators appealed to him in the Autumn to find out whether remedial works were eligible for assistance from Marine Scotland's fisheries harbours emergency 'repair grant scheme'.
He said : 'We provided as much information as we could to Marine Scotland and we were pleasantly surprised at the most helpful attitude of its staff dealing with our subsequent application. We wish to publicly thank the team who dealt so expeditiously with this matter'.
Gills Harbour is best known as the Caithness terminal for Scotland's most successful 'Mainland to Island Group' year-round Roll-on, Roll-off (RO.RO) passenger and freight ferry seaway across the Eastern end of the Pentland Firth to St. Margaret's Hope, in Orkney, 15 miles away: the Firth's 'short-sea route'. The success of Pentland Ferries Ltd is measured by the fact that it receives no public subsidy on its thrice-daily return crossings with the modern 2,400 tonne catamaran ship Pentalina.
The port has been used in recent years by survey-boats and research vessels involved in the early stages of the long-term project to generate large quantities of 'renewable' electricity from the fast-flowing tidal streams of the narrowest East end of the Pentland Firth. All four of the Crown Estate's seabed leases lie near Gills, including MeyGen Ltd's Inner Sound scheme between one mile and 1.5 miles away.
But Mr Mowat added: 'There has been a small-boat fishery from Gills Bay for many generations, back to the days of cod caught by hand-lines and dried for export to Mediterranean lands.
'As well as actual landings, Gills Harbour now serves as a collection point where catches of velvets, edible-crabs and lobsters are loaded on to trucks with aerated sea-water-filled 'vivier tanks' to keep the animals alive for arrival at the main markets in Spain and France.
'Gills Harbour's eight-metre wide 'hard' concrete slipway, which is available at almost all states of the tide, is used by fishing boats from other harbours for sub-surface weed-cleaning from their hulls, for inspections of propellers and other minor repairs'.
'It is also used as a loading point by some Orkney boats purchasing chandlery and fishing gear manufactured in Wick by Caithness Creels Ltd.'
Billy Magee, Lower Gills, Caithness, KW1 4YB.