Harbour Dredging amounts 2018-2023

Whitby Harbour

Many harbour users have reported issues with the apparent lack of dredging in Whitby harbour. This impacts on the ability of the lifeboat to respond to calls, as well as the operational status of the harbour.

An FOI was submitted to determine the the amount of dredging performed in recent years.

“Can you please provide the numbers (tonnes) for the amount of sediment dredged in Whitby Harbour for the financial years 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021, 2021-2022, 2022-2023 and 2023-2024. If you only have the numbers on a calendar year basis then please provide the numbers (tonnes) for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.”

The response was as follows

In calendar years:

  • 2018 – 46,710 Tonnes
  • 2019 – 39,835 Tonnes
  • 2020 – 34,140 Tonnes
  • 2021 – 50,860 Tonnes
  • 2022 – 48,550 Tonnes
  • 2023 –   5,240 Tonnes

or graphically

Tonnage dredged in Whitby Harbour by calendar year

This begs many questions: what happened in 2023? Dalby Offshore leased the dredger, and then went into receivership, but why was there no plan for dredging allowing for the leasing out? Are harbour users getting value for money for the significant harbour duties that they pay? Are dredging levels sufficient to provide a vibrant working harbour?

Let’s not forget the basic fact that if you don’t dredge one year then that sediment will not just “go away”, you have to make up for it the next year – where is the NYC plan for that?

We have written to NYC to determine what is their take on this and what they will be doing to remedy the situation.

Dear Cllr Bastiman, Mr Battersby

Dredging of Whitby harbour is of paramount importance to a functioning maritime environment for the many harbour users, included the Whitby lifeboat(s). For context, the average amount of sediment removed by dredging until 2011 was the order of 71000 tonnes. At this point the maximum amount was reduced to 49000 tonnes “for commercial reasons”.

A recent FOI revealed that whilst the average for 2018-2022 was 44000 tonnes, during 2023 solely 5240 tonnes of sediment was removed. Clearly this has had and continues to have a significant impact on harbour users, yet a 6% increase in harbour dues was pushed through regardless of the reduced service being provided. The excess sediment that would normally have been removed during 2023 will not simply disappear and, as a result, there has to be a significant increase in dredging to get back to anything like a usable harbour.

Could you please advise as to what is the schedule for the dredging of Whitby harbour, both in terms of timescales (on a per quarter basis), as well as in terms of targeted tonnage for 2024, as well as for 2025?

Regards

Whitby Community Network

After a quick reply from Karl Battersby, stating that Gary Pearson would be reply to our questions, we pursued the matter further

Thank you Karl.

When Gary is able to answer those questions, we would also appreciate his input on whether the information about Whitby Harbour on the North Yorkshire Council website is entirely accurate. Particularly

https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-travel/ports-and-harbours/whitby-harbour/cargo-whitby-harbour

We would like to understand how a vessel with 5-6.5m draft would get beyond the entrance to the harbour, let alone to the registered cargo wharf? The page then goes on to say “Vessels with larger dimensions would be considered on an individual basis”; excuse our scepticism, but the writer of that has not visited the harbour recently.

Regards

Whitby Community Network

Mr Pearson kindly got back to us

Further to your email regarding Whitby Harbour Dredging.  I shall endeavour to answer each point in turn.

You are correct about higher tonnage averages of dredging pre- 2011, however it is my understanding that reduction from dredging 71000tonnes to around 49000 tonnes was more of a Marine Management Organisation issue than a commercial issue.

The FOI states the tonnage per calendar year, so that 2023 does appear excessively low and does not necessarily reflect the full a full picture.  In addition to this the Dredger was required to undertake a full 5 yearly inspection and extension drydocking program towards the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024. 

In reference to targeted tonnage, we cannot work by targeted tonnage, as this would mean dredging for dredging sake. We conduct regular sounding surveys, so that we can monitor dredged depths and identify key target areas which need our attention. Where possible we try to maintain depths to be around 1.4m below chart datum, which cannot be guaranteed due to the occasional rapid siltation.

Please be assured that navigational safety is of the harbour and all the harbour users is of our paramount importance. We have recently conducted a sounding survey and we have identified the key target areas for our 2024 to 2025 Dredging campaigns.

Mr G Pearson

Harbour Master, Scarborough & Whitby Harbours and Filey Coble Landing

Note that the response does not address the concerns. What do harbour users think of the current dredging situation, and how it compares to previous years?

Mr Pearson has been sent a follow-up (his email wording in blue).

Dear Mr Pearson,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Further to your email regarding Whitby Harbour Dredging.  I shall endeavour to answer each point in turn.

You are correct about higher tonnage averages of dredging pre- 2011, however it is my understanding that reduction from dredging 71000 tonnes to around 49000 tonnes was more of a Marine Management Organisation issue than a commercial issue.

Interestingly in the submission for a dredging licence one of your predecessors, Trevor Douglas Shannon, he stated

“The only noticeable change to previous Licence conditions is that the amount of spoil to be dredged per annum was reduced in 2011 from the previous amount of 98,000 Tonnes to the present amount of 49,000 Tonnes. The reason for the reduction was for commercial reasons and that it was deemed that 49,000 Tonnes was sufficient for the Harbour requirements.”

So I respectfully suggest that you are mistaken. The wording cannot get much clearer than Mr Shannon utilised.

The FOI states the tonnage per calendar year, so that 2023 does appear excessively low and does not necessarily reflect the full a full picture.  In addition to this the Dredger was required to undertake a full 5 yearly inspection and extension drydocking program towards the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024. 

Indeed, a simple annual figure will never tell the full story. What we can say though, is that the Sandsend was leased to Dalby Offshore during 2023 (please confirm), when it could have been dredging Whitby (and Scarborough) Harbour. Likely this leasing was also for commercial reasons (and no I don’t have a problem with NYC trying to provide full value for its council tax payers using its resources, just that it needs to cater for its obligations to its own residents and harbour users before all others).

If an inspection and drydocking programme was every 5 years then the Harbour Master would have had 5 years to plan for this eventuality. They could have resourced alternative dredging during 2023, but did not. What we can also say is that from a project management perspective the dredging operation during 2023 was utterly flawed.

Harbour users should expect a level of dredging, which then facilitates them being able to freely enter and leave port without significant hindrance. Sadly that was seemingly not the case during 2023, and seemingly continues to not be the case. NYC subsequently decided to increase harbour fees by 6%. Again, for commercial reasons one must assume.

In reference to targeted tonnage, we cannot work by targeted tonnage, as this would mean dredging for dredging sake. We conduct regular sounding surveys, so that we can monitor dredged depths and identify key target areas which need our attention. Where possible we try to maintain depths to be around 1.4m below chart datum, which cannot be guaranteed due to the occasional rapid siltation.

We have recently conducted a sounding survey and we have identified the key target areas for our 2024 to 2025 Dredging campaigns.

Of course I did not imply that you should dredge for dredging sake, I simply asked what your proposed amounts for 2024 and 2025 would likely be.

Attached are diagrams from a former submission of SBC for a dredging licence, showing the dredging level below chart datum. This should hopefully align with what NYC are currently working to provide for harbour users.

The fact that you are performing regular sounding surveys is great, but that simply will tell you the levels across the harbour at a point in time – which, as you say, can vary. However such soundings together with simple volumetric analysis would yield an estimated volume of dredging needed to attempt to get bed levels back to something approaching the attached diagrams. This would be then providing something like a contract of service that you will provide to harbour users … for their 6% increased harbour dues.

I would expect a harbour authority to possess the capability to perform such a volumetric analysis and, with modern calculation tools, it doesn’t need a degree in maths (that I possess). So I ask again, can you share your estimated dredging amount for 2024? If you reach 49000 tonnes in a year, does the current licence preclude you doing further dredging? or is there some exceptional circumstances charge levied?

I did not see any reference in your reply to my addendum question regarding the NYC website, about being able to accomodate vessels with a draft of 5-6.5m at Endeavour Wharf. Can you please confirm whether this is still correct? And further to that, say when the most recent vessels of a draft approaching that have entered and moored at Endeavour Wharf?

Please be assured that navigational safety is of the harbour and all the harbour users is of our paramount importance.

I can only relay that on to harbour users who have to bottom their keels entering the harbour.

On a related note, we have heard that the dredger no longer has an active crew, either currently suspended, or not employed. Can you please confirm or deny this? If it is true, please say how that will impact on your prospective dredging programme for 2024.

Mr G Pearson, Harbour Master, Scarborough & Whitby Harbours and Filey Coble Landing

Would it also be possible to clarify something else. In your email you signed as Harbour Master, yet on LinkedIn you are Deputy Harbour Master. Could you clarify the situation please? If you have indeed recently been promoted to Harbour Master, please accept our sincere congratulations, and best wishes for restoring this harbour to the standard that it is currently so far away from.

Regards

Whitby Community Network

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2 thoughts on “Harbour Dredging amounts 2018-2023

  1. The Borough dreger was described by the former Scarborough Borough Council as a ‘shared assett’. Scarboro harbour dept are subject to a standing recharge of £38,000 per year, irrespective whether, or not any actual dredging activity takes place. That said it has not been seen at Scarboro harbour since 2019, when it visited to clear the berth ready for the C-groan seaweed farm floating restaurant. attached are e few more detailled past accounts of the issue…. http://nyenquirer.uk/scarborough-borough-dredger-hits-harbour-paydirt/
    http://nyenquirer.uk/dredger-problems-come-home-roost/
    http://nyenquirer.uk/dredging-the-depths-of-credulity/

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