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Collapse of council pontoon in Weymouth Harbour sparks boat owners outcry
SALVAGE: Pontoons which collapsed at Weymouth inner harbour during the night, being cut up and removed
BOAT owners are calling for swift action after a council pontoon collapsed in Weymouth Harbour.
A major recovery operation was launched on Monday night as about 50 metres of the inner harbour structure near Cosens Quay gave way.
Fishermen worked until the early hours to save around 16 boats from being dragged under water and a large amount of fishing gear was lost.
The frantic scenes along Commercial Road came after a spring tide in which water levels dropped around lunchtime.
It is thought guides or runners attached to the pontoons became jammed under pillars, 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. Work is ongoing to secure the pontoon with a section of around 40 metres being removed as a short term measure.
A project to replace an older section was set to begin in April, but council officials will now decide whether to bring this forward.
Boat owner Andy Alcock, secretary of the Weymouth and Portland Licensed Fishermen’s and Boat-men’s Association, said: “We hope the council will bring plans to replace the pontoons forward.
“A lot of us moor our fishing boats at this side of the harbour, it is our livelihood.
“It is a very unusual thing to happen. It could’ve been worse but people acted quickly when they could see what was happening.”
He added: “We should hopefully get our gear back when the tide goes down.”
An older section of pontoon due to be replaced was submerged completely while sections attached to it were seen to be tilting.
Council officers and fishermen continued to work at the scene throughout yesterday and a crane was used to lift the collapsed pontoon.
A local boat surveyor, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’ve gone to a lot of pontoons and they get a lot more maintenance than the ones in Weymouth. It is because of the low tide but a little bit of attention might have prevented this.”
Work had been planned
REPAIR work to improve the collapsed pontoon has been planned for some time.
Dominic Lonsdale, vice chairman of Weymouth harbour board, said: “We are grateful for the input from harbour users with the incident on Monday evening.
“Work is ongoing to secure the pontoons with a section of around 40 metres being removed as a short term measure.
“Works to improve this section of the pontoons has been planned for some time and we were recently awarded a grant of £42,000 from the European Fisheries Fund towards the cost of this.
“This project was due to begin in 10 weeks time but following the incident last night we are in discussions with the nominated contractor to see if this can be brought forward. We are also referring the incident to our insurers.”