Such vessels are essential for the safe passage of larger cargo ships into the dock and earlier this year, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet approved a £60,000 grant from its strategic regeneration budget to the Berwick Harbour Commission for a replacement boat.
The previous pilot boat (St Boisil) was an ex-RNLI vessel built in 1973 and it came to Berwick in 1986. Due to its age, it was in need of expensive repairs.
But thanks to the council funding, the Harbour Commission has sourced a purpose-built pilot boat from the Port of Sunderland, which is in immaculate condition.
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This week, she was renamed ‘Gardo’ at a special ceremony held at the port. Gardo comes from one of the last salmon net fishing stations on the Tweed owned by the port, which she passes every time she is put to sea.
Council leader Glen Sanderson, who was among the councillors present at the naming ceremony, said: “We were absolutely delighted to see the new pilot boat taking to the water, where it will perform such a vital role in the day-to-day running of this busy port.
“This is becoming an increasingly popular stop off with cruise ships and we have seen already what a positive knock-on effect these visitors have in the town and surrounding area when they come.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Harbour Commission on its ambitious plans over the coming years.”
Going forward, the strategy is for the port to have two distinct areas of operation (commercial and local amenity and leisure).
The commercial side is handling and storing dry bulk cargoes with the stevedoring/piloting expertise it has within the operational capability of the harbour.
If all goes to plan, it will develop an area separate to the commercial activity for visiting yachts, cruise passenger visits and management, restaurant facilities, a communal area with public access toilets and a viewing area for bird and wildlife watchers.
Harbourmaster Scott Ferguson said: “We’re very grateful to the county council for its support, which has allowed us to secure this wonderful new pilot boat.”