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Chaos as pontoon collapses in Weymouth Harbour
10:11pm Monday 11th February 2013 in News
A MAJOR recovery operation was launched on Monday night after council pontoons collapsed in Weymouth Harbour.
There were frantic scenes along Commercial Road this evening as fishermen worked to save their boats from being dragged under water as about 50 metres of the inner harbour structure near Cosens Quay gave way.
It came after a spring tide in which water levels dropped around lunchtime.
It is thought guides or runners attached to the pontoons became jammed, and as water levels steadily rose throughout the afternoon, the structure was pulled down.
This prompted boatmen to cut the ropes of more than a dozen vessels tied up alongside in case they were pulled under. An amount of fishing gear was lost.
An older section of pontoon due to replaced in the next few months was submerged completely while sections attached to it were seen to be tilting.
Boat owner Andy Alcock, a prominent member of the Weymouth and Portland Licensed Fishermen’s and Boatmen’s Association described ‘chaotic’ scenes as people realised what was happening when the tide rose.
He said: “It was a spring tide and the water was dead low. We think something jammed under the runners.
“As the water's come up, the pontoon has tilted. It started to pull the ropes on the boats so we had to go along and cut them free. The boats were recovered and put on spare berths.
“It was chaos down here with everyone running around. People have lost a bit of gear.
“We couldn’t get hold of the council to begin with but someone from Condor Ferries managed to get word to the harbour master’s staff.”
He added: “I’ve known this to happen before with the pontoons but they usually pop back up again. This time they didn’t, it’s very unusual.
“It could’ve been worse but people acted quickly when they could see what was happening.”
Duty manager for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council Grant Armfield said: “There’s a very high tide range at the moment.
“As the tide rises and falls there are guides which run up and down the piles. Somehow they have become jammed or disconnected and as the tide has come up the pontoon has not come up with it.
“There’s an older pontoon at the end which has sunk. The one next to it may be salvaged.
“I’ve never seen this before. We won’t be able to have a proper look until it’s daylight.”