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Sheerness Docks' boss says changes at the port will not affect marine safety

By Emma Grove

The boss at Sheerness Docks has assured water-users that the port’s commitment to marine safety will not be affected by a restructure.

As part of a group-wide strategy for Peel Ports, from this week there will no longer be a harbour master at Sheppey.

Cathryn Spain, who was based on the Island, has left the business and instead there will be one harbour master, Captain Steve Gallimore, who will be based in Liverpool but will work with all eight of the company’s sites around the country.

Concerns have been raised about proposed changes at Sheerness Docks
Concerns have been raised about proposed changes at Sheerness Docks

As part of the reorganisation, the firm is also considering outsourcing its marine services, including the maintenance of its navigational aids and its hydrography function, which is the surveying of the sea bed.

This is still subject to a consultation and a decision will be made mid-April.

One hydrographic surveyor post is at risk and if the outsourcing goes ahead, a further 10 employees are expected to be transferred to a third party provider.

Minster resident and sailor Tim Bell says he’s concerned these changes could spell the start of the demise of the docks and is also worried about the lack of a harbour master on site to make decisions.

“Without a harbour master present, how will it affect the safety of the commercial and leisure users?” he said.

Sheerness port director Miles Hearn said: “The changes we are proposing to make are in line with a group-wide strategy to make our operation more efficient. They will enable us to prioritise investment into developing the port infrastructure and will facilitate growth for our cargo operations with new facilities for customers.

“All river users and other stakeholders should be assured Peel Ports remains absolutely committed to ensuring the safe and efficient navigation of vessels through the Medway and Swale.

“Nothing has changed in terms of our ability to ensure marine safety as the local port authority and the marine safety procedures and oversight role for the SS Montgomery is not affected.

“We operate in a hugely competitive global market and the changes we are marking will ultimately make the port operation more sustainable in the long term and create jobs and investment for the local economy.”

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