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Reprieve for Cawdor Barracks: Base will not close until 2028



CAWDOR Barracks at Brawdy will remain open until 2028, the Westminster Government announced on Thursday (Nov 25).

The Barracks were earmarked for closure under a previous defence review. However, the MOD now says they will remain open beyond their original closure date, scheduled for 2024.

The Barracks house the 14 Signals Regiment, the Army’s electronic warfare unit. They generate employment and economic activity across north Pembrokeshire.

The announcement came as part of the Future Soldier review undertaken by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

As part of the Future Soldier programme, the number of soldiers in Wales is set to increase. Brecon will be retained, and the number based in North Wales will increase with additional investment devoted to the expansion.

The Regular Army will stand at 73,000 strong by 2025 and, combined with an Army Reserve of 30,000, the British Army will stand at over 100,000.

Welcomes reprieve but continuing to make the case: Stephen Crabb MP

Stephen Crabb MP said: “I welcome this extension which provides greater clarity for the soldiers and their families based in Pembrokeshire. It is also good news for our local community.

“There is no question that Cawdor Barracks is an important strategic asset for the MOD and to the Pembrokeshire economy.

“A deep bond of affection and respect has developed between our community and the 14 Signal Regiment during the time they have been based at Brawdy.

“Local people will welcome the fact that the soldiers and their families will continue to be a valued part of Pembrokeshire life for some years to come.

“Following my parliamentary debate on the future of Cawdor Barracks in February 2020, I was pleased to welcome the Defence Minister, Jeremey Quinn MP, to Pembrokeshire to see the base for himself and to meet with local soldiers.

“This is very positive news today, but I will continue to make the case for the Barracks to remain in Pembrokeshire permanently and will be seeking longer-term clarity from the MOD about its future.”

The extension announcement was made by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Thursday, November 25.

Cllr Simpson said: “Pembrokeshire and Pembrokeshire County Council is rightly proud of its long and close working relationship with the Armed Forces and especially proud to be home to 14 Signal Regiment at Cawdor Barracks.

“The soldiers of 14 Signal Regiment are very much part of the local community – many soldiers’ families have made Pembrokeshire their home – and the Barracks has an important role in the local economy.

“It is good news that Cawdor Barracks will remain open until at least 2028 and we remain hopeful that the Barracks could still continue beyond that date, further extending the close ties between 14 Signal Regiment, Pembrokeshire and this Authority.”


Fishguard RNLI launch to assist sailboat in difficulty



FISHGUARD RNLI was tasked to assist a yacht which was heading for Aberystwth and which had departed Fishguard harbour early on Saturday 03 December.

The 23-foot sailboat, ‘Misty Blue’, with two crew and a dog aboard, had suffered engine and steering problems when it was four miles N.E. of Newport, having set off into a brisk north – easterly wind from Lower Town quay earlier in the day. After the crew had contacted H.M. Coastguard, the Fishguard RNLI all-weather lifeboat, with seven volunteer crew, was tasked and launched at 1.00pm arriving on scene at 1.25pm. The yacht was at this stage heading back to Fishguard under sail and the lifeboat provided an escort until reaching half a mile off the Fishguard breakwater when a towline was attached to the yacht and the lifeboat then brought the yacht alongside the end of Lower Town quay, once again, at 2.40pm .

After ensuring the yacht were safely moored the lifeboat then returned to its station, arriving at 3.00pm.

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Port promises to work with council to solve Lower Priory flood risk



THE PORT OF MILFORD HAVEN has promised to “stand-by and support” the Local Authority and its consultancy firm Capita in carrying out any recommendations made which could mitigate flooding in Lower Priory.

Tom Sawyer, CEO of the Port, said that he recognised that people who were affected by the floods in 2018 were clearly “desperately upset.”

“Its clear that we stopped communicating [with the flood victims]”, he said.

But the Port now has confirmed it is willing to work with its partners, and those affected, to do what is necessary to improve drainage to mitigate future flood risk.

Whist The Port of Milford Haven still denies any liability for the serious flood four years ago, communications had since improved, he said.

“It’s true that every time it rains heavily, I do worry about Lower Priory and Havens Head” – Mr Sawyer said.

But a meeting has taken place at the now renovated Priory Inn public house – which was also flooded to a height just below the downstairs ceilings – to update residents on progress.

The Port’s management have walked around the Priory Pill with residents, The Herald has been told.

In 2019, Members of the County Council’s Services Overview Committee probed the Port Authority’s actions in relation to the lakes.

The Council heard that a report by civil engineering consultants Atkins had concluded that obstruction of trash screens leading from Lower Priory did not materially contribute to the extreme flooding which took place both there and at Haven Head in November 2018.

Over three days of torrential rainfall, fourteen properties were flooded at Lower Priory and there was significant flooding at Haven Head.

An emotional moment in 2018: Stephen Crabb MP with Ian Bannister from Lower Priory clearly upset by the damage caused as his daughter Natalie looks on (Pic: Herald)

The Port Authority continues to deny any liability for damage caused by the flooding.

However, at the time Hakin Councillor Mike Stoddart pointed out that Atkins’ assessment was based on evidence produced by Milford Haven Port Authority.

Councillor Stoddart alleged that Atkins’ finding could not necessarily be relied upon. He noted that the Port Authority had an obvious interest in saying the trash screens were not obstructed in order to support its claim it was not liable for the damage caused by the flood.

Defending the Port Authority’s position, both Andy Jones and Tim Bownes, said the report found that the major factor in the flooding was the large increase in levels of silt in the lakes at Haven Head and Lower Priory combined with high tides and unprecedentedly levels of rainfall.

Under further questioning from Mike Stoddart, Mr Bownes conceded that the electronic flood warning system had been a casualty of the flooding and had stopped recording the water volumes at Lower Priory well before the peak of the inundation.

When one resident produced photographs of a truck tyre in front of a trash screen taken in February which remained in place six months later, he was tersely told that the presence of the tyre did not count as an obstruction of the trash screen.

The resident shook his head in disbelief, while several councillors wondered what did constitute an ‘obstruction’.

It is obvious to this newspaper that the only viable solution to the flood risk problem would be increased capacity for the culverts under Havens Head Business Park – and this could cost many millions of pounds.

Milford Haven Cllr Stephen Joseph has observed that a large amount of infill had taken place at the lakes.

He suggested that this, combined with the development of Haven Head over a former tidal plain contributes to the risk of flooding.

Some of those affected by flooding were not insured, or their insurance companies have refused to pay out.

Those families or individuals still out of pocket years later, including the landlady of the pub where the meeting took place, are still fighting for compensation.

Stephen Crabb MP visits flooded resident (Pic: Herald)
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Port CEO promises to invest millions in new pilot boats and more pilots



THE PORT of Milford Haven’s new Chief Executive has been in post for only eight months, but already the new boss is promising major changes.
Tom Sawyer took up his post at the end of April.
In an exclusive interview with The Pembrokeshire Herald, the CEO of Wales’ biggest port says that there will be some major changes
Most significantly, there will be a huge investment – “in the millions” – in “on water capability” at the port – meaning new pilot boats and a dramatic increase in pilot numbers.

It’s seemingly a huge turn in fortunes for the port.

As recently as August 2014, the port cut the number of pilot boats on duty to a single crewed vessel – There were talks of pilots striking.
At the time, The Herald was contacted by several crew who have said that they have been offered voluntary redundancy ‘to go’.
The Port had said it was looking to cut costs as the amount of cargo coming into Milford Haven has been decreasing following the closure of Murco refinery.

Currently, issues surrounding energy security in the UK and Europe driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to an uplift of 30% in the number of ships berthing in Milford Haven.
Tom Sawyer said on Monday (Dec 5): “We are making a major investment in “on water capability” at the UK’s western energy gateway.
“In a major investment, we will be purchasing at least two new pilot boats and upping pilot numbers.
“It’s a medium-term plan which should be implemented by late 2024,” Mr Sawyer explained.

Port boss has big plans: Tom Sawyer

The promise of new pilot boats will be welcome news for both operators and pilots.
In 2018 a multi-million-pound project to replace the older pilot vessels ran into trouble – after the three boats were deemed ‘unfit for purpose’ by some crew members.

“These boats were rushed out, and were not fit for service”, a source at the Port told this newspaper.

The then brand-new vessels, which were built in Pembrokeshire by Mainstay Marine Solutions at a cost £3.6m, were involved in incidents which led to questions over the operational safety of the craft.
Tom Sawyer says that he is investing in people, safety and resilience and reliability at the port.
He said: “We are putting people into difficult situations. Marine transport involves controlled collisions. We are dealing with hydro-carbon ships kissing pilot boats and jetties.
“We want new pilot boats and an increase in pilot numbers to boost the confidence our teams have. We are investing in resilience and reliability.
“We need to be capable – having well trained pilots, the right boats and equipment.

Asked to confirm how many new vessels the Port of Milford Haven would be commissioning, Mr Sawyer said: “If we were not purchasing two new boats I’d be surprised.
“Better boats are now available, and we want to go out there and get them.
“Some weather conditions mean we can’t get ships in – we can at least make sure we have the best ability to recover.”

In a move which is surely to be welcomed, Mr Sawyer said that crews would have a say in the specifications of the new vessels.

Investment to increase capacity: South Hook LNG

The port boss suggested that some of the older pilot boats may be used as “inside vessels” – as patrol launches for use inside the haven.
There is no doubt that LNG has revived the fortunes of the port.
South Hook LNG will soon receive its 1000th tanker – a milestone the port says it’s proud of.
Another accolade is that the port has never turned away or diverted an LNG ship – every single one has berthed successfully, without exception.

And now, the Government of Qatar is investing millions of pounds in the expansion of the South Hook LNG terminal as the UK becomes more dependent on shipments of the liquefied fuel imported from abroad.
To accommodate around 25% more liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from around the world, Qatar is upgrading to meet demand – increasing the Terminal’s redelivery capacity to 812.5GWh/d.”

All of this extra activity will benefit the local area. As well as new boats, and the creation of new jobs in the way of pilots and probably support crews, extra revenue will be shared out in the local area for community projects and charities.
Staff at the Port of Milford Haven will also benefit from the Haven’s revival in fortunes. The new CEO has promised that he will share the results of all this new activity.

Citing the dangers of pilots climbing onto tankers in rough weather using ladders – Mr Sawyer promises an increase in sea survival and safety training.
“People should be safe and be able to make good decisions” he said.
Expressing how he intends to motivate the personnel he manages, he said: “If we have a good year, he said we will share this with our people and the wider community”
He said that this would incentivise the workforce at the port to safely deliver efficiencies and improve results.

The new pilots and boats are expected to be operational by late 2024, according to Mr Sawyer.

St Brides: Pilot boat in Milford Haven
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