AN URGENT safety plea has been issued to youngsters “tombstoning” into a Moray harbour.
Staff at Lossiemouth Marina fear that groups of teenagers are risking their lives by leaping and flipping off the top of a building at the entrance to the harbour’s west basin.
Police Scotland has backed the call, asking parents to consider the safety of their children.
A combination of high tides, hot weather and the school holidays has seen upwards of 30 young people gathering to take part in the activity in recent weeks.
Marina staff said they have not set out to ruin the youngsters’ summer fun, but they have real concerns about safety.
A misjudged changing tide or the possibility of hitting submerged items are among the serious risks posed. At low tide, they say, there can be as little as three feet of water in the channel. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is the entrance and exit channel for a busy working marina.
Dredging has not taken place this year, so some gauges are inaccurate, heightening concern. A further fear is that younger children may see it happening and decide to copy older ones, unaware of the crucial role played by the tides.
“We have a problem here, and the very last thing we want is to be proved right,” a spokesperson said.
However, with increasing numbers of youngsters taking part, and their behaviour turning marina customers away, they say that they have been forced to speak up.
“What we have here is a secure environment around the pontoons; people pay money for the security of having their boats here.
“We can’t stop people coming into the harbour – in fact we don’t want to; they are more than welcome. But what we have now is quite large groups of young people, up to 35 of them, coming down here, some of them displaying fairly unruly behaviour.
“They climb up on one of our buildings and leap into the water, which is dangerous. We have asked them to go somewhere safer, but they just ignore us,” the spokesperson said.
Youngsters have also been seen running and cycling on the secure pontoons, littering, shouting, clambering on customers’ boats and smoking underneath those that are out of the water for repair.
On one occasion, after police had left, a number of the youngsters hurled toilet rolls at the marina office.
Inspector Alistair Robertson, community policing team Inspector for Lossiemouth and Fochabers, confirmed that they had discussed the problem with marina staff.
“On some occasions, youngsters have been there in large numbers and have been found climbing onto the harbour buildings to jump into the water,” he said.
“When spoken to by marina staff, they have sometimes been offensive and disruptive in their response. Police and harbour staff have the safety of the public in mind, and would ask that when they are asked not to jump into the harbour from the marina, it is respected.
“Lossiemouth Marina is a busy harbour, and we ask parents to consider the safety of their children, as well as their conduct.”
Already this summer, a boy emerged from the water with a bloody face after colliding with a submerged buoy. And a boat owner faced panic when bringing his vessel in for repairs, to be met by a number of youngsters in the water.
“The man did not have a reverse gear, so there was very little he could do,” said the spokesperson. “We have boats coming in here for repairs – it is a working harbour. It is a thoroughfare for marine vessels, not a swimming pool.
“What we are trying to do is maintain a safe environment, and an environment that is pleasant to work in and for customers to come to, and it is not when the youngsters are here. There is lots of noise, lots of shouting, lots of rubbish, lots of anxiety, and we have lost business because of it,” the spokesperson said.
Inspector Robertson said he was saddened that Lossiemouth’s reputation was suffering.
“I understand that the disruptive and sometimes abusive behaviour of some of these young people may have caused some boat owners to take their business elsewhere.
“Lossiemouth prides itself on being a welcoming community, and the marina is a major asset to the town, so it is very disappointing to hear that visitors are being turned away by the shameful behaviour of some of our young people.
“Working together with the marina and the proud community of Lossiemouth, I am sure my officers will try their best to keep people safe and preserve the good reputation of the town,” he said.