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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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A40 closed at Scleddau due to collision between car and motorbike

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EMERGENCY SERVICES have shut the A40 at in Scleddau due to a serious road collision.

The accident happened just before 2pm. The Herald understands that the collision involved a motorcycle and car at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

Police said: “Emergency services are currently on scene and dealing with the incident. Please find an alternative route if possible. Update to follow.”

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Moley’s Ambassador March to support those who have lost a child

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ON SATURDAY (Jun 19), Andrew Cole (aka Moley) will set off on a 24 hour walk around Pembrokeshire with the aim of doing as many miles in as little time as possible. 

Moley is proud to have recently been made ambassador of the charity ‘2 Wish UponAa Star’ an organisation dedicated to supporting families that have lost a child under 25 years of age.

He will be setting off at 6am in the morning from Neyland and walking all day and night, finishing at 6am the following morning.

2 wish upon a star was set up by Rhian Mannings, who set up the charity after losing her own son.

By celebrating the lives of those lost, and offering support to families through their grief; Rhian and her team offer an essential service to the community and those families who have suffered the devastation of losing a loved one.

Appealing for support from the people of Pembrokeshire he said: “Please give generously to support the wonderful work of Rhian and her team. Also, if you happen to see me in the day, feel free to give me a beep of encouragement’

“If you would like to donate to Moley, and support the charity, you can visit his JustGiving page.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/moleycole

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Lifeboats and chopper in major air sea rescue off the coast of Tenby

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TWO RNLI lifeboats from both Tenby and Angle stations have been launched to assist a coastguard helicopter which has been scrambled from MOD St Athen.

It is understood that a search for a missing person or persons is underway.

Paged this morning: Angle Lifeboat is currently involved in the search south of Tenby

The alarm was raised before 10am this morning (June 18).

Tenby’s Y-boat is also involved in the operation, The Herald understands.

MORE TO FOLLOW

Rescue underway: Coastguard chopper position at 1030HRS on Friday, Jun 18 (Pic MarineTraffic)
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