They have had worse ice conditions at Perth, and it hasn’t stopped traffic, in fact they seem to relish the challenge, but the exceptionally cold weather and high snow fall this winter has made life interesting at this inland port some 20 miles up the River from the Tay Bridge at Dundee and 30 miles from the North Sea.
It is the longest river in Scotland but the largest river in the UK by volume of discharge. It brings ice down from its mountainous headwaters to add to the slower moving current in the centre of Perth which freezes far more readily than salt water. Then again man can take a hand and make things worse. Desperate to get rid of accumulating piles of snow cleared from the roads this February this too was tipped into the river. It was supposed to disperse with the current but it merely clogged the channel more.
Yes it makes for trouble and extra work, but as seen from the views of “Ceg Galaxy” in January threading the ice past Newburgh to and from Perth, the ice makes for a beautiful if chilly scene.
Ceg Galaxy 1,035,’83 had brought a part cargo of 500 tons of fishmeal from Bremen and she was followed by Suntis 1,564,’85 from Amsterdam with wheatmeal for animal feed. When they cleared the harbour they would pass the Perth port team already working on maintaining lights and marker buoys that had suffered from the abrasion and vibration caused by the ice flows being moved by tide and river current.
Harbourmaster Nick Horner is no stranger to extremes of weather having a varied career including being mate on a regular service to the Falklands via Ascension on the chartered Rendsburg registered West Moor. Storms and especially the wind he recalls, but never any snow down there. Then there were those long days in the tropics, both ways, to savour, and one glorious Christmas swinging to anchor off Ascension with unforgettable hospitality ashore…
But back to ice and snow on the Tay: it was soon after Nick joined Perth in the late ‘90s that he experienced worse icing there. A Paal Wilson freighter was to lift a cargo of pet-coke for Norway, a material brought up from Ayrshire, and coming up light with the tide she had to laboriously batter a route into the dock close enough to the quay for a shore-side grab to smash the jammed ice separating ship from shore. Then it used its bucket to paddle the flows out of the way. Another of those techniques you cannot learn at college.
As is to be expected Perth like most ports is suffering in the economic downturn. They had a record shipment of 2,569 tons of milling wheat from Rostock only in late ’08 aboard Fast Sam, 1,983,’94, but by then a contract for 17,000 tons of building blocks for a major new schools programme had finished. Though in recent times they have handled ten or more ships per month, they are currently down to half that level.
The port has four berths and trade will no doubt pick up when the economy improves. It is an operation with a strong personal service standing out amongst increasingly faceless big ‘plc’ port combines and Perth has an important part to play in serving a wide range of customers in Central Scotland.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - April 2010 Issue
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