Port of Aberdeen is urging members of the public to keep away from restricted areas of its estate as part of efforts to buck the trend of increased trespassing during the summer months.
The safety drive comes during national Maritime Safety Week as the Port seeks to educate members of the public on the hazards within the Port estate, which if unmitigated can have tragic consequences.
In 2021 there were 14 incidents of unauthorised access to the Port’s estate. This was more than a 130% rise from incidents recorded pre-pandemic in 2019. The largest number of incidents typically occur between May and August.
A third of all incidents involved trespassing on the Port’s iconic North and South breakwaters, which are the gateway to the Port’s busy shipping channel.
A number of the breaches onto the breakwaters have seen members of the public engage in tombstoning, which is a dangerous activity that involves jumping off a structure of cliff into water of an unknown depth.
Alex McIntosh, Harbour Master, Port of Aberdeen says, “The Port of Aberdeen emergency responders respond to each breach of the port security as soon as we are alerted to them. We hear all sorts of reasons for the breaches – they were taking photographs, wanted to go fishing, fancied a swim or were just having a laugh. Some have even turned up with ladders to climb over the fence.”
“The public do not always appreciate the risk to themselves and the Port of Aberdeen employees who respond to remove them from our breakwaters and quaysides. Also, they’re not always aware that these breaches are also breaching Port Security legislation,” McIntosh adds.
Throughout the pandemic we have observed an increase in the popularity of watersports in Aberdeen – including wild swimming, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) – which has similarly amplified the potential danger to the public.
Continuing, McIntosh says, “It is encouraging to see more people enjoy the coastline through different outdoor activities. However, the Port has a responsibility to reduce the risk to the public through engagement and education.”
“The navigation channels and port approaches can be busy with commercial and leisure traffic entering and exiting the Port. The vessels navigating in the approaches may not be aware of the presence, particularly of SUP or wild swimmers, as they are not visible in the water. Leisure users are encouraged to remain within the areas bounded by the five-metre contour line on the navigation chart to the North of the North breakwater,” he continues.
The Port would also encourage members of the public planning on visiting the beach or coastline over the summer to follow Emily’s Code, which aims to prevent accidents at sea by highlighting key safety messages in memory of 14-year-old Emily Gardner.
Sarah West, Interim Chief Operating Officer, Port of Aberdeen adds, “Port of Aberdeen is one of the busiest ports in the country and with that comes many hazards, especially to untrained members of the public. That’s why it’s vital that the public play their part by adhering to maritime rules, safety signage and keeping out of restricted areas of the port estate.”
“We’re continuously reviewing our processes and procedures aimed at unauthorised entry incidents at the port, and we work closely with Aberdeen Water Safety Group to ensure the water safety message gets out to the public,” says West.
Since 2020, the port has invested more than GBP 300,000 in anti-intruder mitigations. This has included the installation of new cameras and barriers at common user quays within the Port’s estate, and enhanced signage at the South breakwater.
Bill Deans, Founder, Aberdeen Water Safety Group, says, “Aberdeen Water Safety Group are happy to work along with Port of Aberdeen in the promotion of water safety in and around the Port and beach areas of Aberdeen.”
If members of the public spot suspicious activity or individuals accessing restricted areas of the port, they should call +44 01224 597000 and a specialised team will assess and respond.