THIS year the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) and others within the port will be praying that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) gives the thumbs up for the capital dredging scheme proposed for the harbour to accommodate mega cruise ships and larger commercial vessels.
Examining the records for the port FHC appear to have had difficulties with other dredging projects over the years.
Sixty years ago when the dawn of the super tanker was burgeoning FHC launched a scheme for a major dredging operation in order to allow two large super tankers to moor in the Carrick Roads at the same time.
The Falmouth Packet headlines in 1957 read: “Harbour Commissioners prepare for new super-tankers – dredging will provide berths for ships.”
FHC came up with a grandiose scheme to dredge and shave off huge areas of the harbour to accommodate the larger tankers (65,000 tons dwt) being built in the United Kingdom.
The commissioners favoured shaving off a large area of the St Mawes Bank, now a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) to give greater channel width and a channel depth at low water of 40 feet to provide deep water for laden tankers.
On the port side of the channel the plan was to dredge the Falmouth Bank to a depth of 22 feet.
FHC said: “The provision of leading lights is receiving consideration as these large tankers will have to be accurately moored in the centre of the new anchorages.”
Encouraged by headlines in the international press calling Falmouth a premier ship repair port with one of the largest dry docks in the UK, the commissioners probably cajoled by Silley Cox and Co had a vision that Falmouth had a long term future in accommodating large tankers. For a short period Falmouth was the only UK port capable of dry docking the new super tankers.
Unfortunately, other ports in the UK and northern Europe soon invested heavily in new dry docks and infrastructure. Within a decade tankers rapidly passed the 65,000 ton vessels that Falmouth could handle.
Whatever the rationale surrounding the dredging project in 1957 it appears with hindsight to have been completely the wrong decision.
A year later in 1958 ship owners informed FHC that Falmouth bay was quite adequate for ships awaiting ship repair berths.
With a newly proposed Falmouth Harbour Bill the commissioners were seeking borrowing powers for £400,000 to cover the cost of dredging.
Reading numerous stories written about the scheme not one word was written about damaging the environment. Maerl, habitat, and environment were words to surface much later.
The MMO is expected to make an announcement this month regarding the capital dredging scheme currently proposed for the port.
Mind you, how many times in the past two years have we heard this?