Published: 14:11, 25 May 2022
| Updated: 12:30, 31 May 2022
Businesses are losing millions of pounds in revenue after a ship damaged a port's entrance, it has emerged.
Chatham Docks has been temporarily closed by the landowner while repairs are being made to its lock gates.
The damage was caused by a vessel which was coming into port to offload some timber.
It struck the dock's north entrance on Monday, March 7. Nobody on board was injured.
The dock was closed on Thursday, March 24. Businesses were informed the day before and they have been told it should reopen by the end of July.
Phil Taylor, chief executive of steel company ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, called the closure "devastating".
He said: "It's causing significant operational issues for all of us who rely on ships coming in and out of the basin.
"Now we're in a crisis situation where we can't get any ships in or out and it's likely to cost two of the significant tenants a total of around £2 million, and that's if it opens at the end of July."
Mr Taylor explained there are two sets of lock gates side by side which allows one to open if the other needs to close.
He also says ships were having to be diverted to other ports – including Sheerness – which comes with a premium for using those alternative facilities.
Cargo then has to reach its destination by road which also increases costs. Mr Taylor confirmed his company was one of those set to lose millions due to the disruption.
Richard Goffin, port director of south east cluster at Peel Ports Group, said: "We are working closely with all affected customers and partners to ensure we minimise the impact of this disruption and we understand those affected are continuing to operate via alternative locations.
“The damage is structural and, given the delicate nature of lock gates, we have appointed a specialist structural engineer to assess the damage.
"The southern lock gates were already out of action due to an extensive upgrade and repair programme and anticipate these to become fully operational within eight to 10 weeks."
It comes amid controversial plans by Peel L&P to redevelop the site to provide 3,625 homes and 2,000 jobs.