Harbour rates confusion leads to a sinking feeling

Stonehaven Harbour
Stonehaven Harbour

Stonehaven harbour users have been left confused over charges which may be increased by a council committee meeting today(Thursday).Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee committee will be asked to ratify a baseline increase of 3.5% for the coming financial year, recommended by officers.

At Stonehaven and District Community Council’s meeting on Tuesday night, the group heard from Ruari McLachlan of Castle Charters about ‘‘confusion and lack of communication regarding harbour rates for the past couple of years.’’

He posted on Facebook over the weekend: “We are sad to confirm, with the new harbour charges seeing the council taxing a percentage of our daily income over and above the standard annual berthing fees, that we have had no option but to and cease boat trips and sea angling.

‘‘It’s very sad for us as we are the last charter boat in Stonhaven. The Lady Gail II is now up for sale.”

Ruari stressed at the community council meeting that he felt the fees needed to be fairer and the company was more than happy to pay their fair share.

The Leader and Observerfirst reported back in January that rising harbour fees were affecting local business.

Community councillor Ian Hunter said: “I believe there are two issues here, one is the level of the fees involved and the second is we have people trying to run a business who have no idea what their fees actually are.”

The meeting heard of a bill received by Castle Charters for £2200 for 22 days’ work. Aberdeenshire Councillor Wendy Agnew stressed she had received an e-mail that said the bill was estimated and the actual figure would be much lower.

It is proposed that charter operators undertaking “ferrying” trips, such as those to offshore vessels, will be charged a flat fee per trip. Operators engaged in certified equipment testing and training will be charged a fee based on a fixed percentage of income from that operation, up to a maximum ceiling.

These proposals will not impact on charter vessels engaged in leisure trips, such as diving, fishing and wildlife spotting.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Graeme Clark said: “The more information we can get for Thursday’s meeting ,the better. We want tourism trips to continue in Stonehaven.”

Aberdeenshire Council operates Banff, Gourdon, Johnshaven, Macduff, Portsoy, Rosehearty and Stonehaven harbours.