Oil crisis victims retrained to run dredger

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Workers made redundant in the north-east’s oil crisis are being retrained to run Moray Council’s £2.5million dredger during staff emergencies.

The MV Selkie was launched last spring, but had to remain in its berth at Buckie harbour for months over the summer after a deckhand resigned.

The 90ft vessel is run by a crew of three, and can only take to the sea when it is fully staffed.

Silt continued to build up at local harbours in dire need of dredging while the authority struggled to find someone to fill the vacancy.

Moray Council’s transportation manager, Nicola Moss, yesterday conceded that the situation “highlighted resistance issues” around the operation of the craft.

But, addressing the authority’s audit and scrutiny committee, she explained the steps taken to prevent the problem from recurring.

Mrs Moss said: “It became clear that this may have an impact again in the future, and we are working to find an internal solution using harbour teams to provide cover in the event of unexpected absences.

“We have two new starts in our harbour department, who have come from the offshore industry, and we are giving them every opportunity to work with the Selkie’s master and crew.

“They are being taught how to man the vessel, and will ultimately be able to step in if required.”

Mrs Moss added that the MV Selike still managed to meet its target expectations since being launched, despite the setback.

She explained that the craft had scooped up 13,000 tonnes of sand and mud from Moray’s harbours.

Committee chairman, Gordon McDonald queried Mrs Moss on whether the council intended to increase the cost of hiring out the dredger to other local authorities.

Mr McDonald, who represents Buckie, said the charges set when plans for the dredger were formed in 2015 should be adjusted to reflect inflation.

Mrs Moss suggested such a move could affect the “marketability” of the machine, but said pricing varied on an individual basis.

She added that the council would maintain a balance between hiring out the Selkie and having it carry out jobs at Moray’s ports.

The machine has been put to work in Buckie Harbour this week, and is tackling a buildup of silt at its channel.