Unanimous backing for trust port proposal

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New legislation, most likely a Harbour Empowerment Order, will be submitted early next year in a further drive to establish a trust port for Oban.

Members of the Oban Bay Management Group (OBMG) backed proposals, in theory, from the Oban Bay Stakeholder Group (OBSG) to introduce new harbour authority arrangements.

Plans were revealed at a very positive public meeting at the Argyllshire Gathering Halls last week after an evaluation of the viability of operating a trust port was completed.

The call for change came late last year when Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) launched plans to run the whole harbour and bay, which currently runs under two statutory harbour authorities: Argyll and Bute Council, which owns the North Pier, and CMAL, which owns the ferry terminal.

While it was agreed that a single authority would improve safety in the busy port, users were concerned that their interests would suffer if CMAL was to become the sole manager.

OBSG believes that a trust port can be operated for a significantly lower cost than originally thought and a new Oban Community Harbour Development Association (OCHDA) was formed to drive the proposals forward.

Although the majority of OBMG representatives backed the idea of a trust port, and agreed that safety was the main responsibility of any harbour authority, there were still reservations surrounding the viability of the proposal.

A difference of estimated annual running costs of £475,000 between the stakeholder (£325,000) and the management group (£8oo,000) raised concerns.

Tony Bennett, chairman of Oban Bay Stakeholder Group, believes that a trust port is the most viable option after a municipal port, which had already been ruled out by the council, and that communication would be key to taking it forward.

‘If you don’t speak and listen, it comes back to bite you,’ he warned.

‘The whole thing scares me a bit, to be honest, but I truly believe a trust port would be the most effective form of governance for Oban Bay, which is becoming busier year on year.’

Next steps include, drafting the new legislation, finalising operational governance, determining start-up costs and sourcing funding, appointing a project officer and ongoing consultation with all stakeholders.

In the meantime, while the trust port proposal is being developed, the  proposal that CMAL is established as the single harbour authority and the preparatory work needed for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) has been on hold.

The option of CMAL extending its harbour area remains on the table and the board will review its position if no legislation has been promoted by March 1, 2020.