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Port CEO promises to invest millions in new pilot boats and more pilots

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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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Milford Haven: Police investigating sexual assault

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POLICE are investigating an incident of sexual assault which occurred in Hakin, Milford Haven.

Milford Haven Police say that the alleged incident took place in Croft Avenue on February 7, 2023 at around 19:50hrs.

If anyone is able to give any information regarding this incident please ring 101 quoting reference DPP/0956/07/02/2023/02/C.

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Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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