MONTROSE and District Probus Club met on Tuesday and welcomed Mr Terry Wood once again as their guest speaker.
Mr Wood had been a very active trustee of Montrose Port Authority over the first decade of this century. He gave his views of the workings of the port, and the problems it is facing.
He explained that while there are nine trustees on the board, only two are local. Montrose has the only commercial port in Angus and it is one of the largest employers in the area. Its very existence is important to the economy not just of the burgh, but also of the surrounding area.
Mr Wood went on to say that at the turn of the century much of the infrastructure was in dire need of repair, but whilst other Scottish ports like Arbroath, Aberdeen, Scrabster, Peterhead, Dundee, and even Perth had millions spent on refurbishment and up-grading, Montrose seems to have been the Cinderella amongst the Scottish ports. It is owned, not by the Burgh of Montrose, nor by Angus Council but by the trustees. After the relatively recent re-organisation of Peterhead Harbour, John Paterson left the Blue Toon and came South to Montrose where he managed to radically transform the port.
The former trustee said that one of the problems which has to be faced is the sheer financial outlay involved in running the port. For instance it costs around £100,000 every year to dredge the channels. In some European countries the government will foot this bill, but not so here. Four pilots are needed round the clock and their services are essential.
Mr Wood went on to say that on the South [Ferryden] side of the port, new berths and silos have been constructed and office blocks have been built. The North side is a different story. Six of the older berths need around £50 million spent on them, to renovate and upgrade them. He stated his belief that the new bridge over the South Esk and the small roundabout at its Northern approach ought to have been built on a wider scale to allow for heavy traffic and large articulated lorries to have easier access to and from the harbour area. Much of the traditional exports of potatoes, grain and timber is now shipped from ports owned by Forth Port Authority, one of Montrose’s biggest competitors.
While a sum in excess of £3 million was made available from Holyrood towards the upkeep of the Port, he believes it will cost somewhere in excess of £120 million to renovate and upgrade the whole of its north eastern area, taking into account all the infrastructure, roads and lighting that are needed to enable a feasible reconstruction programme to be developed.
Mr Wood told members that he is very conscious of the fact that so many local people are either ignorant of, or apathetic towards the work of the Montrose Port Authority.