Falmouth Harbour chief owns shares in company used for dredging
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.
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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"As this was just a small news item and the trial dredge was complete, I chose to remove it, along with other out-of-date articles."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."