HARBOUR IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Walls raised as �8m cranes set to leave

MAJOR work is to be carried out on the entrance to Great Yarmouth’s outer harbour to address the swell problem that has dogged the port during its first year of operation.

The 200m entrance to the harbour could be reduced by as much as 50m to reduce the impact of swell whipped up by easterly winds. At the same time, the breakwater arms will be densified and heightened with extra rock.

The news comes in the week that the port has been put under the microscope by a Norfolk County Council scrutiny meeting examining whether it has represented good value for nearly �20m of public investment.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that the �8m container cranes that have been idle since their arrival at the harbour in May 2009 are to be taken away by ship to Venice, Italy, in late March or early April.

EastPort announced at the end of last year that the container operation with PSA was to be suspended because of the economic conditions.

Critics have blamed EastPort for the ongoing swell problem – which has prompted criticism from a ship’s captain and led to one vessel leaving port early – because it made design changes to the original harbour plan.

However, EastPort chief executive Eddie Freeman insisted there were frequently teething problems with new ports.

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“Almost always, there is a need for some kind of adjustments, whether it is to the fenders or the design. There are no skeletons here, it is par for the course,” he said.

They were consulting on various design options, but expected to come to a decision within weeks. he added. The work was then likely to take place over the summer.

The swell problem first became widely debated last autumn when the grain-carrying vessel The Arklow Viking abandoned an attempt to dock in windy conditions.

At that time, the captain Hans Cadee said there was too much movement and pitch and roll to be safe for loading and he described the outer harbour as “completely exposed to the easterly wind from the North Sea”.

Mr Freeman said the swell issue had been accentuated by market trends that meant smaller vessels were now wanting to use the outer harbour; it had originally been designed for ships too large to fit into the river port.

Measures had already been taken to tackle the problem by replacing hard rubber cone fenders designed for bigger ships with Yokohama airbag fenders.

He said sea ports were always going to be at risk from the elements but insisted the swell issue was not getting in the way of the harbour’s growth. Operations would continue normally at the harbour during the work.

Regarding the removal of the cranes, Mr Freeman said it would enable the port to focus on other opportunities, notably the burgeoning offshore renewables sector.

EastPort’s announcements were made at a Town Hall meeting attended by port users and a range of other interests, including councillors and union representatives.

The meeting, designed to improve EastPort’s communication with the public, is to become a three-times-a-year event.