Guernsey Press

Boat owners are not trying to cheat the taxpayer

I refer to the article in the Guernsey Press dated 18 November with the sub-heading: ‘STSB installs devices to stop large vessels using electricity without paying for it’.

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This creates an impression that boat owners are trying to cheat the taxpayer, which is not the case.

The history here is important. My recollection and personal experience is that Guernsey Harbours has historically provided electricity supposedly on a metered basis, and the white posts around the marina pontoons and on certain places ashore have keypads.

From memory Guernsey Harbours spent an eye-watering amount on installing a computerised remote metering system. In the early years berth holders used to receive a quarterly bill charging for usage. After some time, no bills were issued and I suspect that the computerised remote metering system did not like its proximity to seawater and failed. I understand from someone who designs them that they only ever have a short

service life and was therefore a questionable investment. More recently, an annual charge appeared for electricity instead of a metered charge.

Hence, berth holders signed up to paying metered usage charges and did so when invoiced. It is Guernsey Harbours’ failure to select and maintain a suitable system and administer it that has led to the current situation. To suggest that there is any attempt on the part of berth holders not to pay their way is grossly misleading. Guernsey Harbours had a centralised system for metering electricity, but it no longer appears to work or is not used.

The suggestion that any leisure boat is consuming £300 of electricity a month is highly questionable, and I suspect that the average is a tiny percentage of this.

I fear that the highly selective portrayal of the facts in this case is part of the daily PR campaign by Guernsey Ports to justify the highly inequitable and unjustifiable increases they are trying to inflict on local berth holders, in order to pay for the continuing losses at the airport.

John Falla, St Sampson’s

Guernsey Ports chief operating officer Ross Coppolo responds:

I am sure that the Guernsey Press is happy to clarify that the story referred to arose from an enquiry from the newspaper, not from Guernsey Ports. This was, we understand, after someone raised with a reporter the notion that owners of very large boats could be consuming far more electricity than they were paying for.

We were happy to clarify for the Guernsey Press that this is not the case. Large vessels are all now on a metered supply.

We also clarified that the suggested figure of £200-£300 a month was very high. Only the very largest vessels would fall into that category, all of which have been fitted with smart meters and are charged accordingly.

Your correspondent is therefore correct that the figure of £300 a month is questionable, but it didn’t come from Guernsey Ports. And we certainly made no suggestion that anyone was trying to cheat the taxpayer – if anything our explanation was the opposite.

As for the history of electricity metering at the marinas, your correspondent’s recollection may well be correct. It is not something the Guernsey Press asked about, so was not dealt with in the reply.

I am sorry if your correspondent has taken offence at what was a factual response to an enquiry from the Guernsey Press.