'Repeat offenders' to be charged for bailing out boats at Mid and East Antrim Council marinas

Bailing out flooded boats at Mid and East Antrim’s marinas could cost their owners an additional fee, it was agreed at a meeting of the council’s Environment and Economy Committee on Monday evening.
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A report to the committee stated “additional services are provided by marina staff which are above and beyond what council is obligated to provide”.

“During the winter months, marina staff are spending a considerable amount of additional time and resources to attend to vessels that are neglected by boat owners. These vessels present a risk of sinking or damaging council property or other vessels berthed at the marina if not attended to.”

The report notes staff are required to “pump boats out, replace mooring lines. adjust burst fenders or tow boats to an alternative berth because it is unsafe”. Councillors also heard there are “quite a few repeat offenders” who do not attend to their vessels.

Carrick maritime area. Local Democracy Reporting Service.Carrick maritime area. Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Carrick maritime area. Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Commenting on the berthing terms at the meeting, Carrick Castle DUP Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said: “It is very dictatorial. These should be re-written in a much more diplomatic fashion. We have to learn to be a bit more diplomatic when dealing with our customer base.”

Philip Thompson, the council’s operations director, indicated the council is not proposing to charge for requests for assistance on two occasions each year.

“When a berth-holder is in distress, we will respond to that. It is to catch repeat offenders or people who do not take on board responsibility,” he explained.

Too Aggressive

Portglenone Marina (top). Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.Portglenone Marina (top). Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Portglenone Marina (top). Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Ald Ashe commented: “It is not the way it comes across. ‘The council should have the right to board and enter if necessary by force etc,’ it is just too aggressive for me. It comes through as dictatorial. These people are our customers, we must remember that. We must be a customer-focused organisation.”

Carrick Castle Ulster Unionist Councillor Robin Stewart stated: “I tend to agree with Alderman Ashe on that. Have you actually spoken to representatives from the berth- holders? I suggest this may have to happen. It reads very dictatorially.”

Karena Catterson, the council’s harbours and marinas manager, told the committee: “In relation to these clauses, they are legacy terms and conditions. It is something we would be happy to revisit with the council legal team. These are the terms and conditions that have been about forever and a day. They do need revised a little bit.”

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Roy Beggs commented that most responsible boat owners will not be annoyed with the charges because they will not impact them.

Glenarm Marina. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.Glenarm Marina. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Glenarm Marina. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“Repeat offenders – it is wrong we should be paying for it.” He went on to say that the proposed charges will “ensure that rate-payers do not suffer costs”.

Committee chair Knockagh Ulster Unionist Ald Andrew Wilson asked how Mid and East Antrim’s charges compare with other councils’.

The officer said the local authority looks at Bangor Marina’s. She added: “The charges we are proposing are not unreasonable by any means or unusual in any respect.”

Larne Lough Alliance Ald Robert Logan said as a boat owner, he has visited other marinas and the council’s contract wording is the “sort of language” to be found in marina contracts.

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Cllr Beggs proposed approving the new charges but with an amendment to the wording and provision for two requests for assistance, free of charge, beyond the normal services provided by the marina. His proposal was seconded by Knockagh Alliance Cllr Aaron Skinner.

A charge of £50 was agreed for adjusting mooring lines, replacing frayed or broken mooring lines, replacing burst or missing fenders and £100 for pumping out water to prevent sinking.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter