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Falmouth Harbour chief owns shares in company used for dredging

By West Briton  |  Posted: October 04, 2012

  • Mark Sansom.

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FALMOUTH'S harbour master owns shares in a company which was employed during a dredging trial.

Triskel Marine Ltd (TML) announced it was providing services for last week's three-day trial dredge of Falmouth Harbour which is intended to help authorities decide whether to allow full dredging to accommodate larger cruise ships.

Opponents say it would damage wildlife habitats connected to maerl beds and set a precedent for other protected sites.

Harbour master Captain Mark Sansom and his wife each own 10 per cent of TML, leading to the allegation of a conflict of interests from Falmouth-based environmentalist Miles Hoskin, who opposes dredging. Mr Sansom resigned as a director of the company in 2009.

TML's involvement was published on its website hours after Falmouth Harbour Commissioners' (FHC) chairman, Dave Ellis, stated at a public meeting there was no conflict of interest between anyone connected with the commissioners and the dredging project.

Shortly after the West Briton questioned FHC, the announcement was deleted from TML's website.

The company said a buoy it previously provided to FHC was being used for the trial and it was asked to provide real-time monitoring of oxygen levels. It says the work was worth less than £1,000.

Ken Wittamore, from TML, said: "I put a small item on our website because I am proud a small Cornish company leads the world in this growing technical area. I was not briefed by FHC and had no knowledge they were holding a public meeting. There is no link between the timing of FHC's meeting and our news article.

"Following the meeting, I was asked to clarify the fact the monitoring was carried out by FHC using an FHC buoy, albeit with TML technology inside.

"As this was just a small news item and the trial dredge was complete, I chose to remove it, along with other out-of-date articles."

He added the company had never paid dividends to shareholders.

FHC said an investigation concluded that repeated allegations of a conflict of interests were "unfounded". The chairman decided not to allow the meeting to be used as a forum for a repeat of the allegations and Mr Sansom had declared his shares.

Mr Ellis said: "FHC is free to contract with whichever company we feel can provide the best service at the most competitive price and I am absolutely confident that our rigorous processes are sufficiently robust to ensure we are not favouring any company over another.

"Decisions on awarding contracts are made entirely on the basis of best value and the technical expertise required to carry out the work.

"It is disappointing that, despite these repeated assurances, unfounded allegations of impropriety continue to be made."

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  • Fisherboy  |  October 05 2012, 11:46AM

    FHC and A&P are the partners who have appplied for licences to dredge a new channel in Falmouth Harbour and dump over 1 million tonnes in Falmouth Bay. In 2010, as reported in this newspaper, A&P were fined over £600,000 for illegal dredging. In his summing up the judge mentioned "lies" and "a proplonged campaign to mislead". In view of this latest revelation about FHC I am sure the irony of this close partnership will be apparent to everyone. Their dredging and dumping proposals threaten the livelihoods of almost the entire inshore fishing fleet of Falmouth and Helford, as well as threatening the marine habitat of the area. Considering the facts now coming to light, about both organisations, can we be sure that the facts they have given about the dredging proposals are true? Their other key partner in this proposal is Cornwall Council, who have agreed to fund the dredging with our Council tax money. The total is expected to be around £23,000,000. This has been decided, like so many other important decisions within our Council, by a handfull of people. Your local Councillor has almost certainly not had a say. There is an online petition on CC website which, when it reaches 5,000 signatures will trigger a debate in full Council. The petition concerning Strategic Services has already reached that number. What a strong message we could send our Council if a second debate of full Council were to be forced! This appears to be the only means we have of returning democracy in this County to us, the people of the County. I urge you to take this oportunity.

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  • Dalex  |  October 04 2012, 8:07PM

    Congratulations WB for finally bringing this issue into the public arena. There have been enough murmurings of such goings on for a number of years now. The fundamental issue is one of TRUST. Falmouth is a TRUST PORT. However, TRUST appears to be a commodity that is wearing a bit thin in maritime Falmouth. WB does appear to have missed the very recent article along the same lines in `Private Eye'. I append below the bones of this from the `EYE', lifted from that very excellent and incisive `Falmouth Bay and Harbour Action Page' on Facebook - I couldn't get a copy of the Eye in my local store - "What the West Briton didn't report but Private Eye (Issue 1324) did was this: "......when questions were raised at the harbour commissioners' annual meeting about "the significant and dubious overlap between Captain [Mark] Sansom's roles as both harbourmaster and chief exec of FHC and his private business interests", the chairman of FHC, David Ellis, flatly denied that there was any overlap. When another questioner wanted it confirmed that none of the harbour commissioners stood to gain financially if the dredging went ahead, Ellis replied "Absolutely not". Sansom said nothing to contradict him." ......How does David Ellis square this with his acknowledgement in the West Briton that Triskel has worked for FHC in relation to the dredging?" ****rats, above reflects the natural response of many in Cornwall. FHC appear to be slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted. Alternatively, the `Teflon' Hislop must be wrong - I doubt it!

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  • shagrats  |  October 04 2012, 12:40PM

    It doesn't really matter if he doesn't see a conflict of interest, but its if anyone else sees one. Public perception is everything in this sort of issue. It reminds me of that classic scene from American Pie where the hero gets caught "in the pie" and the first thing he says is "its not what it looks like " ! Yeah right !

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