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Possible mooring changes coming to Belfast Harbor

By Kendra Caruso | Jul 13, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Boats are docked or anchored to moorings in Belfast Harbor.

Belfast — Belfast Harbor Master Katherine Pickering introduced new mooring regulations for the City Council to consider July 2.

Pickering singled out a specific type of mooring that is failing in the harbor and noted a potential safety issue: Inspectors can’t predict when steel welds will fail because it can be difficult to determine if the weld is strong or weak.

“Welds can sometimes be very hard to determine if they’re good welds because there are so many variables when you’re actually welding steel,” Pickering said, “based on the type of steel, the temperature, that sort of thing. And again, it was very difficult for the inspectors to tell if the welds were going bad.”

Unsafe moorings can be removed by the harbor master but with over 300 in the harbor, Pickering says it’s not feasible for her to inspect them along with her other job-related responsibilities.

“Right now our ordinance allows the harbor master to pull a mooring if they feel the mooring is unsafe. But it’s really not feasible for the harbor master to be a regular inspector of moorings,” Pickering said.

The Harbor Committee used examples from similar towns in Maine with moorings as precedent for the regulation changes. It found some harbors regulate the type of moorings being used.

“In looking at other municipal ordinances there are several towns, those in particular with larger number of moorings,” Pickering said. “We have about 300 moorings in our harbor, which has been a fairly stable number over the past several years. And other towns will restrict the type of mooring anchor that is being used.

“The consistency allows a larger degree of safety overall when you only have to deal with one type of mooring anchor, everywhere from the administration to the mooring inspectors themselves.”

Pickering proposed that the city limit the type of moorings to granite blocks with a minimum 1-inch steel staple. City Attorney Bill Kelly verified the legalities of the proposed regulations.

Pickering informed councilors the city is liable if a mooring fails under current ordinances. She requested new wording, similar to federal maritime law, that holds mooring owners responsible for accidents related to mooring failures.

“If you’re looking at overall maritime law, there is a provision called the … Prudent Seaman Rule,” Pickering said, “which is actually in the federal code of regulations that states that mooring owners, excuse me, vessel owners are responsible for their vessel in any kind of situation, especially where safety is involved. Whether they’re navigating, anchoring, anything.”

Current ordinances are for fair weather standards and state that a vessel no more than 40 feet may be anchored to an inner harbor mooring. It prohibits hand-mixed concrete blocks and old engine blocks from being used as weights.

Pickering sent a letter to all mooring owners about the proposed changes and advising them to consult their inspectors to prepare for the changes. City Council will vote on the new regulations at its meeting Tuesday, July 30.


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Comments (4)
Posted by: Geoff Facey | Jul 16, 2019 11:26

Typically the mooring owners would hire the contractors to do their inspections and installations.  Most moorings in the harbor are privately owned, this article is talking about regulating the type of mooring anchor that can be used in the harbor as the Harbor Master has identified a potential issue with a certain type of anchor, and she does not have the manpower to inspect all of the moorings in the harbor herself to determine how many are of this type and how many are close to failure.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 16, 2019 05:57

So if moorings are inspected by independent contractors, then what is the Harbor Master talking about when she says "it's not feasible for her to inspect them". And how does the contractors actually inspect the Moorings? Do they don diving suits or wading pants at low tide or are they lifted off the bottom, causing possible stress to the welds? The independent contractors only place and inspect the moorings pursuant to a contract with a scope of work defined by the City.

Posted by: John E Marshall | Jul 15, 2019 14:57

Moorings are placed and inspected by independent contractors and not by the City of Belfast. When we cruised downeast and even into Canada, we would frequently be approached by another boater who, noticing Belfast, ME as our hailing port,  would tell us about how wonderfully they were treated by Kathy and her crew. Of course Asst Harbormasters are necessary to assist with fueling, guest docking and days off. The Belfast Harbor is an overall income generator not just the City but for downtown merchants as well.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 15, 2019 04:23

"Pickering says it’s not feasible for her to inspect them along with her other job-related responsibilities", yet she has at least two assistant harbor masters working during Season. So let me see if I understand this. Moorings have been installed in the Bay by the City with an anchoring technique that is susceptible to failure, but other Maine “towns will restrict the type of mooring anchor that is being used”, so why hasn't Belfast done the same? Does the City know the age of each mooring, assuming that adequate record keeping has been done and can a “first in, first out” method be used for inspection. Are the moorings lifted off the Bay floor (possibly leading to more stress on the welds) or are they inspected in place. Stay tuned!

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