Newsletter from the Commodore
It is now a couple of weeks on from Storm Emma, and it is probably time to give some update to the wider membership of how this has impacted on us all here.
Firstly we have identified at least 20 boats belonging to members that have been lost or damaged – and some of those were members’ homes. The tragedy of this, the heartache and the incredible disruption to people’s lives is immeasurable. Our hearts go out to them.
The scale of the disaster in ‘official’ terms is very big, and the complications with insurance companies, people affected, government bodies and other officials, plus the growing number of official contractors appointed to resolve different bits of the mess, has made the recovery process appear to be slow to start off. But thankfully, there is some visible progress happening now.
The environmental damage needs to be contained and this has been underway for most of the week. The next stage is for the boats to be recovered.
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The Welsh Assembly Government TV Channel, Senedd TV, provides records of the workings of our democracy here in Wales. You may be interested to review the question raised by Rhun Ap Iorwerth (AM) in the Senedd on Wednesday 2018-03-07 and the response from the Cabinet Secretary Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths (AM).
This is a transcript of the session provided by the Rhun's team
Rhun ap Iorwerth AC
- What is the Welsh Government's response to the effects of storm Emma on Holyhead?
Lesley Griffiths AC
Diolch. Natural Resources Wales are working with the Holyhead marina, the port authority and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the clean-up and to minimise further fuel loss or escape of debris into the environment. This includes taking action to deal with the polystyrene that has spilled into the water. I will be visiting Holyhead port and marina tomorrow to meet with all agencies involved.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AC
Thank you for that response. I was at Holyhead marina on Friday, immediately after the storm, and the scene—many of you will have seen the pictures on television and so on—was truly heartbreaking: utter destruction. There were many pleasure boats there, which are important to the area, but there were also commercial boats in the marina, and many of those had been destroyed or partially damaged.
Now, all of the businesses using the marina make up an important part of the marine economy of Anglesey, and given the emphasis now, at last, thank goodness, on developing the maritime strategy for Wales, I would like to know what kind of support package the Government can put together to support these businesses in their hour of need in the short term. Secondly, and looking beyond the short term, may I be given a commitment that the Government will assist to fund research into the possible need for a sea defence for this part of the harbour in Holyhead? As a question related to that: would you agree that there’s an important role for the oceanography department at Bangor University in this important work, including the use of their research ship, the Prince Madog?
Finally, and crucially—and you have referred to this—in the short term, we are facing a grave environmental problem as a result of the storm. I understand that there wasn’t too much fuel in the boats, and that most of it has been collected, but there is certainly a huge problem in terms of the polystyrene debris of the pontoons in the marina. There’s a real threat as a result of polystyrene. I was on the Institute for European Environmental Policy website earlier, where they discussed the risks to sea life ingesting polystyrene, which can be broken up into very small particles and will then remain for a long time, and the risk when that gets into the food chain and so on and so forth.
Questions have been asked as to whether the response of Welsh Government agencies was swift enough following the storm in terms of the pollution damage. Local people have been told to keep away from the shore and not to participate in the clean-up, but many of them have said that they feel that they have to because they don’t see officials undertaking that work. But whatever happened then, now, five days later, I would like an update on what is being done to deal with the pollution, and an assurance that whatever needs to be done will be done to ensure that we don’t face more environmental destruction than we’ve already seen.
Lesley Griffiths AC
Thank you, Rhun ap Iorwerth, for that question. I would like to say from the outset that I'm very grateful to all those who have been involved in the clean-up operation. I think, because of their hard work, we have helped to minimise the environmental impact of this very unfortunate event, and I absolutely appreciate the effect that the storm damage has had on many people's livelihoods, and that's obviously a very distressing situation for them all.
You ask a series of questions; in relation to the boats, there are about 85 boats that have been damaged, of which five are commercial fishing boats.
I'm very happy to give consideration to possible financial support for public infrastructure repair. Also if there's any further environmental damage that needs cleaning up, I'm very happy to look at that, and that's obviously something I'll be discussing on my visit tomorrow. You say that it's been a grave environmental impact; I want to see for myself what it is, but certainly, questions haven't been raised with me about our response not being quick enough. I've been having several briefings every day since this happened on Friday, and, certainly, my understanding is from NRW that it's progressed in a very smooth way.
There is a north Wales standing environment group, of which my officials are members; that hasn't been brought together because there wasn't the need to do that. Now, if you are saying that there is a grave environmental situation, when I get there tomorrow, I will want to know why that hasn't been brought together if that's the case. But, certainly, my understanding is it hasn't been convened because they are happy with the way that the clean-up has gone to plan at the current time.So, I'll be very happy to update you following my visit there tomorrow, and, obviously, other Members too.
Whether we need to have a sea defence there is something that clearly needs to be looked at. This was an absolutely catastrophic event that happened on Friday, and whilst I appreciate we haven't seen weather like that for a long time in Wales, I think there are questions to be asked why it was so catastrophic. You said about the pictures, and, certainly, at home last weekend, to see those photographs were just heartbreaking. But as I said, Llywydd, I will be very happy to update the Member following my visit tomorrow [2018-03-08].
Here is the link to the Senedd TV. On the right hand side of your browser you will need to click on to see the question and answer session in its entirety.
You might also note that the Cabinet Secretary is intending to be at Holyhead on Thursday 8th March.
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Update as of 2018-03-09 15:47
The Sailing Club has received this update from Rhian Pritchard on behalf of Dylan Williams – Head of Regulation and Economic Development, Anglesey County Council.
As you aware, it was agreed during the Multi Agency Strategy Meeting yesterday (Thursday 8th March) that the Control & Co-ordination response will now be led by Port of Holyhead (Stena Line Ports) and the Isle of Anglesey County Council.
The Statutory Organisations involved in this incident will be meeting on Monday 12th March (Incident Control & Co-ordination Group).
Whilst recognising your interest in the ongoing efforts, and eagerness to support, attendance will now be limited to the organisations with a statutory responsibility in the response effort.
The statutory organisations will consider and agree on appropriate arrangements to keep you and other interested parties informed of progress.
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To help with the location of vessels in the marina area
These photographs and are copyright. We have permission from Eye In The Sky Cinematography to show them in this article. They have been added so that you may be able to locate specific vessels from these images taken from the drone footage.
You can also see them in a google photos album on this link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YxNiTaJ6l9VKbBjQ2
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