Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) presented its Annual Report 2015 to members of the public this week.
The annual event detailing financial accounts and activity for 2015 as well as a summary of the current year’s activity and finances was held at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth.
2015 activities highlighted during the session included the local harbour direction of a summer speed limit in the popular bathing area of Falmouth Bay; the negotiation of a new five-year agreement for the delivery of pilotage services in the Estuary, and the declaration of compliance with the Port Marine Safety Code.
Presentations from the commissioners’ two service arms set up in 2014 were also given. Leisure-arm, Falmouth Haven reported an increased turnover of more than 10% following the creation of new products and better utilisation of marina space and Falmouth Pilot Services reported level income despite a reduction in commercial shipping activity.
The continued success of the renewable energy device testing site in Falmouth waters, FaBTest, was highlighted, as well as an update on the Falmouth dredging project progress following the major milestone achieved in 2016.
The Commissioners explained they are expecting to hear in the next few weeks from the Government’s environmental regulator, the Marine Management Organisation, on whether it agrees with their environmental assessment of the proposed dredging site. If so, it will clear the way for an application for a license to dredge to be submitted.
Further 2016 activities, including a new user-friendly website, the procurement of a new mooring maintenance vessel and the proposals and consultations for a further two harbour directions: a speed-limit for Carrick Roads and extending the speed restricted bathing area in Falmouth Bay, were also summarised.
An overview of the 2015 accounts detailed an operating loss for the organisation of £20k. This was due to factors beyond the company’s control: a continuing decline in one of the company’s major income streams, commercial shipping, and the ongoing Pilots’ Pension liabilities, which in 2015 cost FHC nearly £240k.
To ensure the long term viability of the business, FHC announced it is reviewing the decision to replace one of the Pilot Boats, L K MITCHELL and it will also not be in the position to be the funder for the Red Arrows display during Falmouth Week 2017. FHC, which has sponsored and organised the display since 2009, reassured it is ready to support any new sponsor or funder with organising and resourcing the hugely popular and beneficial community event.
Commenting on the financial outlook, Captain Mark Sansom, chief executive and harbour master, said: “For reasons beyond our control, 2015 resulted in operating at a loss for the second year running. With the continuing downturn in commercial shipping we are also facing a challenging financial year.
“We are therefore having to make tough business decisions and regrettably this means that after seven years of organising and funding the Red Arrows display for Falmouth Week, we will now be needing someone else to step forward to enable it to return in 2017.”
He continued: “We will also be continuing with our strategy of growing the business and customer base through investing in improved and additional facilities for leisure users in order to achieve further growth for Falmouth Haven.”
At the meeting it was also announced it was the last public meeting for chairman Dave Ellis who after nearly 12 years will be leaving the board in December following serving the maximum term as a commissioner. Carrie Gilmore, a board member since 2013, was announced as his successor and will take over on January 1.
Ellis said: “I have very much enjoyed my time with FHC and look back with great pride on our achievements. I am sad to go but recognise the governance value of rotating board membership and wish Carrie and the other commissioners every success in the future.”
Chair elect Gilmore added: “It is an honour to be elected as chair of FHC. I recognise that I am taking over at a challenging time for the Organisation but I am confident that with the broad range of skills available to us both within the staff and on the board, we will overcome these and continue to achieve great things in the future.”
The Annual Report 2015 is now available from the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners’ office and available to download at www.falmouthport.co.uk.