WEYMOUTH and Portland's charter boat industry is calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak for support amid fears the industry is on the brink of collapse.

Charter boats offer activities such as angling, diving and sightseeing, accounting for roughly half of the area's marine industry income.

An economic report seen by the Echo states that the charter boat industry is worth £2 million annually to Weymouth and Portland, which includes the indirect value the sector brings to other tourism businesses in the area.

Whilst the commercial fishing industry has been promised government help in the form of grants, a majority of charter boat owners operate as limited companies, and the businesses do not occupy a premises, which means they are not eligible for any of the coronavirus support packages unveiled so far.

On top of this operators with boats berthed at Weymouth Harbour must still pay fees to Dorset Council, although some businesses are reportedly being considered for deferred payments.

Lyle Stantiford, who is secretary of the Professional Boatman’s Association, said Weymouth has one of the most popular angling charter fleets in the UK - but with overheads of between £5,000 - £20,000 per year, businesses will not stay afloat.

The Association wrote to the chancellor at the beginning of this month calling for help but is yet to receive a reply.

Mr Stantiford - who owns Weymouth charter boat Supanova II - said: "To me this has been a massive oversight from government.

"Without immediate access to the small business grant scheme and support for directors of limited companies, many charter operators will simply not survive this.

"We have just come through one of the worst winters for 30 years and are potentially facing no days at sea this season with bills to pay over next winter too.

"The truth is that we have mounting bills with potentially zero revenue for 18 months."

Meanwhile, Ben Taylor, owner of Weymouth Bay Rib charter said he is facing mounting costs with no income.

"We don't occupy a premises so we fall outside of the bracket for business rate relief and the government grant," he explained.

"However our annual bills continue and cannot be paused. These include private mooring fees in Weymouth Harbour, insurance, coding, liferaft hire and boat storage.

"All have to still be paid, but with no income the company will be unable to survive."