Ventnor Haven was constructed in 2003 as part of a long term strategy to promote Ventnor as a working seaside town. Funding from DEFRA, SEEDA and the Isle of Wight Council was granted on the condition that land adjacent to the Haven would be regenerated to provide complimentary marine based facilities and employment. One of the main criteria was to improve the efficiency of the local shellfish industry which previously operated from Ventnor Beach sometimes conflicting with other beach users.
Cheetah Marine has been contracted since 2003 to manage the Haven by the Isle of Wight Council. Commercial operations in the form of fishing, launch and sea trials of Cheetah Catamarans continue throughout the year. Private investment from Geoff Blake in 2007 funded a new Fish Pier where fish landed at the Haven by the growing fleet of Cheetah Catamarans is processed and sold either locally from the front of house wet fish shop or distributed to the many restaurants on the island or further afield to Brixham, London and the Continent. A freshly fried fish take away compliments the Fishery enabling visitors to sample the local crab and lobster.
In the summer months, the Haven becomes a hive of activity for amongst leisure craft, charter fishing and Sea Safari’s as well as being the only stop off point for RIBs venturing around the south side of the island.
With the opening of OceanBLUE Quay in 2009 housing Cheetah Catamaran boatbuilding and a new harbourside cafe in conjunction with Cheetah Marine’s Sea Safaris from the haven, it is fair to conclude that the project has complimented tourism and created marine related employment in a previously dilapidated area.
Sediment and seaweed at Ventnor Haven has been a serious problem since the Haven was constructed in 2003. Sand and seaweed are continuously carried into the haven in suspension especially during periods of rough weather. Once trapped within the Haven the seaweed breaks down anaerobically producing noxious fumes including hydrogen sulphide based compounds known to be dangerous to health. The sand accumulates within the entrance forming a sand bar which reduces the timeframe that the Haven can be accessed for the local fishing fleet.
To combat the problem Cheetah Marine developed a shallow water mini dredger. The Cheetah Mini Dredge was launched in February 2012 and is based on the high capacity 10.2m catamaran design. The bow features an aluminium A frame with track sliding which guides the pumphead vertically into the water column through Cheetah’s 1m2 moonpool. Unlike conventional dredgers the sliding nylon 5” pipes prevent the pumphead from straying horizontally as the boat is maneuvered.
Sean Strevens Cheetah Designer and Dredge Tester comments ‘The Minidredge is a very environmentally and people friendly solution to the problem of rotten seaweed at Ventnor. Although high maintenance, the Minidredge has delivered very satisfactory results. Having cleared the previous accumulation of weed bought into the Haven over the years we can now tackle each years influx in late spring as and when it arrives. This avoids the ensuing decomposition and associated bad smells which have affected trade to the town and esplanade over previous years. By regularly operating the pump we can keep on top of the problem and avoid any inevitable disruptions caused by heavy machinery operating along the Eastern Esplanade.’
Sean commented in 2012 after the initial trials ‘In three weeks of operation, the Haven is much deeper - a benefit for all haven users and it is also much clearer - a benefit for everyone. Already there are small shoals of fish in the shallows and the deeper parts of the haven has lost its black tinge as the seaweed has been removed’