THE head of a fisheries company in Littlehampton is in dispute with the town’s harbour board over a lucrative contract.
Paul Childs, skipper of Enterprise Fisheries, said the Littlehampton Harbour Board is operating outside its jurisdiction by taking on a contract off Worthing’s shoreline – something the harbour board refutes.
Mr Childs, who has been operating from the harbour for about 20 years, said the move had caused him to lose out on a lucrative contract with Worthing Borough Council to move shore buoys.
Mr Childs claims he has lost out on about 25 per cent of his annual turnover, which has forced him to lay-off one member of staff.
“The contract might only take three weeks out of 52 weeks but it was quite a lucrative job to us.”
It came after funding to pay for the harbour’s £300,000 Erica vessel was green-lit with the ship being used for a range of tasks in the Arun.
River Ward councillor Ian Buckland was concerned by the move.
He said: “I am shocked and totally dismayed in the fact that this vessel is being allowed to go out of the harbour and gain business where there are privately owned companies that are already doing that work.
“I don’t ever remember a discussion of the vessel being allowed to go out further afield to do contracted work outside the harbour.”
However, Littlehampton’s Harbour Master Billy Johnson claimed this was totally untrue.
He said the harbour ran as a business and had been operating a number of commercial contracts outside the confines of the River Arun for a number of years – well before the new boat was on the scene.
“It’s just untrue,” he said. “I appreciate the concerns but we are duty bound to run the harbour.
“We already work inside and outside the harbour trying to maximize the assets that we have.
“We’re here to run as a business.
“Now we have a more capable boat it’s obvious we will continue to run.”
Mr Johnson added the increase in revenue would be pumped back into the harbour.
A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council said it rigorously examined contracts and determined the harbour board would ‘deliver the service most efficiently for the local community’.