Fleetwood’s last remaining fishermen say the lack of dredging of Fleetwood’s dock channel is putting their boats at risk.
Concerns have been expressed that the lack of dredging is causing difficulties to existing businesses and putting off potential new trade in the port.
It’s worse on the Tiger’s Tail (sandbank)you really struggle to get in and out now and it’s dangerous, you could lose your boat if you get stuck
Members of the fishing community and veterans of the industry believe port owner Associated British Ports (ABP) could do more to help port business.
Fisherman John Worthington, who sails two boats out of Fleetwood – one for fishing and one for sea angling trips – says the lack of dredging is a threat.
He added: “ABP don’t dredge the channel at all now, they haven’t done it since the P&O boats left.
“It’s worse on the Tiger’s Tail (sandbank)you really struggle to get in and out now and it’s dangerous, you could lose your boat if you get stuck.
“We can only go out two hours either side of high water.
“There’s no way you can sail at low tide, there’s about two feet underneath the boat, it used to be 10ft.
“If we have to come in because of bad weather, but the tide is low, we have to wait at the top of the channel. That can be dangerous because we are tied up out there in rough weather.”
Steve Whelan who operates the Isadale, an 80ft steel trawler with a deep hull, hasn’t been back to his home port for 18 months.
Having fished out of Fleetwood for 30 years, Mr Whelan’s boat is one of the last surviving trawlers of the large class and he can’t risk even trying to sail into Fleetwood because of the silted up channel.
He said: “My boat is in Whitehaven because there’s no chance of getting into Fleetwood.
“We’ve been working at the windfarms and out of Liverpool but the contract ended in December. We would have liked to have come back to Fleetwood for maintenance and repair work but we can’t. There might be the odd tide which would allow us to dock safely but we could be stranded for weeks.”
Steve lives 10 minutes from Fleetwood dock but has to make a two and a half hour trip to Whitehaven to tend to the boat.
He said: “We go up there and sleep on the boat for a few days, do the work, and drive home. If it was in Fleetwood we’d be down there every day. All our fishing gear and equipment is here, the whole infrastructure is there.
“We would still like to use Fleetwood but we can’t.
AM Seafoods echoed Mr Worthington’s statement and said that although they are happy with the service ABP provides, dredging would encourage more boats to land in Fleetwood.
Company director Mark Merrick said: “We have four boats coming in and out of Fleetwood very regularly and at certain times they can’t land because of low tides but on those occasions they will land elsewhere.
“If we could get more dredging done outside the dock gates we would be able to get more boats in and it would encourage more boats to land in Fleetwood, rather than elsewhere.
“That would make it easier for us because entry to the factory would be quicker and therefore produce would be fresher.”
Fleetwood Port Manager Paul Jervis said: “ABP remains confident about the prospects for the Port of Fleetwood.
“We continue to actively market the ferry terminal facility here and are working hard with the local council, and the fish park developer to secure the long term future of the port.”