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Oban Bay harbour manager, veteran seaman Paul Jennings, has only been in the job two weeks, but says he is already making positive changes to the busy port.
Employed on behalf of Oban Harbour’s management group by CalMac Ferries Limited, Mr Jennings is now the point of contact for all matters to do with the safe navigation of the bay from the entrance in the North Channel to the Sound of Kerrera, and he will be supporting the task of establishing Oban Bay as a Statutory Harbour Authority.
‘Since the introduction of a two ship service to Mull, the number of ferries running has increased from 8,000 to 13,000 each year,’ Mr Jennings said.
‘Plus another 4,500 vessels are using the north pier and south quay. The only harbour in the UK that has more traffic than that is Dover, and it’s all operating through this small area of water.’
In 2014 a navigational risk assessment of Oban Bay was undertaken, and even though currently there are two authorities – CMAL and the council – none of the wider area of the bay is officially controlled and there is no one authority to take reports.
‘We’ve talked to virtually everybody over the last six months that uses the bay, and from that we came up with a revised Code of Practice,’ Mr Jennings said. ‘This includes chart changes that will be put in place and introduces new speed limits, which are 10 knots outside and six knots inside the harbour area. We also want to identify a large vessel channel in the north entrance.
Mr Jennings, who was a navigator in the Royal Navy and operations manager for RNLI, doesn’t have official power until the harbour authority is established, which will take about two years. Meanwhile, he is acting in a coordination role and is the single point of contact for concerns, near misses and incidents in the harbour.
Oban Harbour has a website designed to provide practical up-to-date information to all bay stakeholders and users, as well as provide a procedure for reporting incidents and near misses. The revised Code of Practice for operating a vessel in Oban goes live on the website on March 31. Mr Jennings has also kicked off a ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ campaign for small vessels and kayakers.
‘It’s quite a big move for Oban,’ Mr Jennings admitted. ‘I will be getting out on the street to tell people about it and giving flyers out. Anyone can come and speak to me with concerns and questions.’