Our island could strengthen its economy, visitor offer and community facilities by following the example of Chamber’s founders 210 years ago and investing in our harbour areas. Blue Economy Industry Head Matt Le Page is at the helm
‘As someone who works in the sector, I am highly aware of the potential of our marine economy and regularly hear from others in the industry – and beyond – how frustrated they are that we are not making the most of our seaboard and harbour areas.
The blue economy is worth, conservatively, £20m a year so it is far from niche and has achieved that level in spite of the lack of investment in our harbours and surrounding areas, although I realise that plans are afoot! We just need to drive those changes.
Chamber was created more than two centuries ago specifically to spearhead the creation of our existing harbour at a time when the States met infrequently and businesses decided that they had to take the lead. We are delighted that various plans are afoot today and want to ensure that they are appropriate – but, perhaps as importantly, that something tangible happens soon after at least 10 years of consideration.
It’s a complex situation because sea links, marine trade use, recreational space and moorings, the fishing industry, freight and a whole host of additional uses, have to be factored into any ‘grand plan’. Add to that meeting the needs of our welcome cruise ship programme and demands on the harbour space become even greater.
Whilst Chamber is really mindful of the need to have a cohesive approach to any development, it has felt at times in the past few years that constant revision of schemes and plans is an issue in itself. Some of those in the industry have identified ‘quick wins’ that would increase revenue, could be implemented at minimal cost and which would be a real asset to the island as a whole.
The island is currently weak in the facilities that it provides for larger vessels. These visit to fuel up (which is often a substantial amount) but we can’t offer them attractive mooring space or even the chance to stay at all if the limited slots available are already full. Surely offering this type of berth/mooring would be a win/win for Guernsey as it introduces the crew and often the owners to our beautiful island. Many of these people have substantial global business interests, and homes around the world – the type of individuals we want to locate! They don’t see the best side of the island when moored on a commercial quay and unable to overnight.
That is just one scenario and no less important is proper provision for our fishing industry and for pleasure boaters. On a busy day in the Town harbour it is pretty awesome to watch the huge amount of activity as the ferries, visiting yachts, commercial vessels and local boaters use the space but it does tend to make you think that we need to invest for the future.
If Chamber had not driven the redevelopment of our existing harbour 200 years ago, much of what happens now would not be possible. Even in those days it took 10 years to bring it to fruition. Current plans – in their various guises – have been afoot for more than a decade. Chamber will continue to push for a clear focus and for work to be scheduled. Let’s make the most of this gem of a location!