Falmouth’s iconic and much loved pilot boat LK Mitchell is to be sold as the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) battle stormy financial seas following a significant drop in shipping trade that makes it difficult to maintain and operate two vessels.

FHC and Fowey Harbour Commissioners signed an agreement on June 1 which will see the two harbour authorities share pilot boat resources. The formal arrangement marks the first official partnership between the neighbouring ports.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), both ports will offer emergency cover for each other’s pilot vessels which transport marine pilots to and from ships.

The arrangement follows joint discussions about how to react to the reduction in demand for pilotage at both ports. In order to reduce operating costs, FHC has made the decision to operate the pilotage service with a single pilot boat, Arrow. The LK Mitchell, which has served as a pilot vessel in Falmouth for 40 years, is being offered for sale for £80,000.

The MOU will allow Fowey to be supported by Falmouth’s ten-year-old pilot boat, Arrow and Falmouth Pilot Services will have access to Fowey’s two pilot cutters, Gribbin and Gallant.

Captain Mark Sansom, chief executive and Falmouth Harbour Master, said: “Through collaborating with Fowey we are taking positive steps to manage reduced resources whilst maintaining the resilience of both of our services, at a time when the use of both ports has reduced.”

Commercial trade has dropped off in Falmouth in terms of bunkering and ship repair with FHC suffering from a massive downturn in pilotage and harbour dues revenue.

Those of us who keep a careful eye on port trade have been expecting FHC to make a radical decision on pilot boats.

“We are in challenging financial times and unfortunately it is no longer viable for us to continue operating and maintaining two pilot vessels. LK Mitchell has served the port gallantly for 40 years and whilst we are sad to be saying goodbye we are delighted to be partnering with Fowey Harbour Commissioners” said Mark Sansom.

Captain Paul Thomas, chief executive and Fowey Harbour Master, said: “Sharing resources with Falmouth means a great deal to Fowey Harbour. It is hugely reassuring to know that we’re able to rely on a neighbouring port to provide boat cover which will ensure we continue to deliver a 24-hour pilotage service in our harbour.”

LK Mitchell is named after Falmouth Trinity House pilot Captain Laurence Kerr Mitchell who lost his life whilst boarding the car ferry Eagle in heavy weather in 1974.

The pilot boat was officially named by Mrs Mitchell at Customs House Quay on May 26, 1978 when she said: “ He would have been proud to have had her as his ship. She is a handsome reminder of a handsome man. She is as strong as he was strong and I am sure she will endure difficulties at sea as he faced them.”