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Milford Haven: New pilot boats ‘not fit for purpose’ [UPDATED]

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A MULTI-MILLION pound project to replace the pilot vessels at The Port of Milford Haven, Britain’s largest energy port, has run into trouble – after the three boats were deemed ‘unfit for purpose’ by some crew members.

The brand new vessels, which were built in Pembrokeshire by Mainstay Marine Solutions at a cost £3.6m, have been involved in incidents which have questioned the operational safety of the craft.

St Brides, the first of the 19m pilot boats, was delivered to the Port of Milford Haven on March 24, 2016.

When launched the boat was lauded by the Port of Milford Haven as being capable of reaching up to 14 knots (16.1 mph) with 12 persons on board.

The crafts are designed to be used extensively in heavy weather and are likely to operate in swells up to 5m in wave height.

According to the Port, the boats are able to withstand the impact of coming alongside large tankers in turbulent sea conditions, and provide a safe platform when transferring pilots to and from ships visiting the various terminals along the Milford Haven Waterway.

The three new vessels were intended to replace the Port’s ageing fleet of four: the ‘Skomer’ and ‘Picton’ which were delivered in 2007 and 2009 respectively in readiness for the arrival of LNG, the ‘Portunus’, and the Port’s oldest vessel the ‘Hakin’, which has been operating on the Haven since the early 1980s.

But incidents which have taken place in the last year have led to two of the new vessels being tied up in Milford Haven Docks on an ‘operational pause’ whist the Port keeps some of its remaining ageing vessels in operation.

Two of the old pilot boats, due to have been replaced, the Picton and the Skomer, were identified as being operational this week on vesselfinder.com

Tied up: Expensive new Pilot boats in ‘operational pause’

‘NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE’

A source close to the Port told The Pembrokeshire Herald, on condition of anonymity, that it was not long after the first boat, St Brides, was delivered that coxswains reported handling difficulties with the vessel.

“A cursory check over initially gave that vessel the all clear,” our contact explained.

“However, in July 2016, soon after the second vessel, the St Davids, was commissioned there was a serious accident in which the boat t-boned a gas tanker resulting in her front being crushed in by two feet.

“It’s been widely reported that she was at sea delivering pilots to the LNG carrier The Lijmiliya when it made hard contact with the ship.

“These boats were rushed out, are currently not fit for service.”

A Port press release at the time reads: “The impact was such that it resulted in three of the five Port of Milford Haven crew members who were on board at the time suffering injuries which were minor in nature but required hospital attention. All three are now recovering at home.

Our source told The Herald: “Two of the crew members who were injured were not able to return to active duty and no longer work for the Port Authority. It is my understanding that they are currently pursuing claims with the help of the union against their former employer.

“The severity of the LNG tanker incident was played down and, in my view, even covered over. One of the men badly smashed his arm; and an incident which shortened a vessel by 2 feet involving an LNG tanker is a serious one.”

“Have these crew members been hung out to dry with no money for their injuries only sick pay and whatever pension they have already earned.”

A SECOND SOURCE SPEAKS OUT

The claims made by our anonymous source were backed up by another employee of the Port of Milford Haven, who is currently a crew member on the pilot vessels.

He said that he believes that he and others working on the boat would never have faith in these new vessels, which have been rushed out and are underpowered.

There was no Marine Accident Investigation Branch probe into the incident in 2016 involving the LNG carrier. The Port, our source said, was allowed ‘to do its own internal investigation, which in my mind was not thorough enough, and tossed aside the facts’.

He continued: “I also know about a second incident, which was a near miss, involving another of the new boats, the St Govans.

“The vessel was underway when it was involved in a non-contact near miss with an oil tanker.

“When I say near miss, I mean near miss. The St Govans was just metres away from the tanker and those involved were severely shaken up.”

Marine Accident Investigation Branch spokesperson said: “The St David incident was reported to us and we made enquiries, but did not conduct a full investigation. We receive between 1500 and 1800 reports of accidents of all types and severity each year. On average this leads to 30 separate investigations being launched.”

Assistant Harbourmaster John Warneford was on-board the pilot boat at the time.

Our source also told us: “The management of the Port Authority were told on many occasions that the specifications of the new vessels were not up to par. The main problem being that they are so underpowered, they are unsafe to use in high seas.

“We were also concerned about the fendering system. A previous problem with de-misters has been partially solved, with cold blowing de-misters being retrofitted.

“These are boats on the cheap, it’s about cutting corners, saving money, and bonuses for top management.”

PORT COMMENTS

Alec Don, Chief Executive at the Port of Milford Haven, told The Herald: “Our pilot boats perform some of the most challenging operations within the Port limits, transferring our pilots on and off ships that visit the UK’s biggest energy port throughout the year.

“The safety of our launch crews and of the pilots they carry is our principle concern. While all our launches are operational, the new ‘Saints Class’ are still operating under some restrictions. This is primarily while we evaluate handling characteristics, iron out any remaining snagging issues and fully understand the root cause of apparent performance differences to the satisfaction of both our marine department and the manufacturers.

“In parallel with this work we are taking the opportunity to review our operational procedures to ensure all avenues are exhaustively explored and addressed.”

VIDEO:

This video, made by the Port Authority and shared on Vimeo, demonstrates the challenges facing pilots, launches and their crews in high seas, and the importance of having sufficiently powered vessels.

British Robin departure from Milford Haven (Video Only) from Port of Milford Haven on Vimeo.

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Pembrokeshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Pembrokeshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Pembrokeshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

  •           Get self-care advice
  •           Be told how to get any medicine you need
  •           Find out what local service can help you
  •           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
  •           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one
  •           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

 

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Trial date for son accused of killing mum

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THE SON of Judith Rhead, 68, who was found dead in her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock on Feb 20 will now appear in Crown Court again in October.

Dale Morgan, 43, said to be a scout master, appeared in court only to confirm his name, date of birth and address – which was listed as Honeyborough Green, Neyland.

A plea and trial preparation hearing date was set for March 26 with a provisional trial date set for October 4.

He was remanded in custody.

In court papers it stated that the alleged murder took place between December 10, 2020 and February 21, 2021.

The paperwork demonstrates that the police are unsure of the exact date that Ms Rhead died. The large date range, two months, points to the likelihood that this will be a challenging case for all those involved.

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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