Sunday, April 06, 2014

Time to repaint the buoys ... and time to get the correct colours

Update 12 May 2014 - Belfast City Council have confirmed that they'll shortly be repainting the three buoys ... and they've consulted the experts and will be painting them red and white, green (cone shaped) and black (can shaped).

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Long time readers of the blog will remember previous posts about the three enormous buoys that occupy the square beside the University of Ulster Belfast Campus and St Anne’s Cathedral.

Just before the Tall Ships Festival in September 2009, I noticed a spot of repainting. At a cost of £3,000-£3,500, the Council’s Property Maintenance Section repainted the buoys. And oddly, they changed the colour of the red flatted-topped buoy to a light blue colour.

The plaque beside them explains how they came to be located on this piece of land owned by Belfast City Council.
The Buoys

The maritime influence is strong in Ulster. The coastline is long and there are many harbours. Belfast has a tradition as a sea port and shipbuilding city. Ulstermen over the years have built fine ships and served at sea in wartime and in peace. They have fished for their livelihood and sailed for pleasure.

Belfast City Council has used the gift of three navigation buoys from the Commissioner of Irish Lights as the theme of an Environmental Improvement Scheme to mark the Ulster seagoing tradition. These three buoys are more than 50 years old and are in pre 1979 Lateral System Buoyage colours. They are of the type used in local waters.

BBC journalist Will Leitch picked up on the story and ran a piece on Good Morning Ulster which discovered that while the colours had been changed, the previous colours hadn’t been correct either and didn’t strictly follow the “pre-1979 Lateral System Buoyage colours”.

Belfast Harbourmaster Captain Kevin Allen explained:
“The round buoy, which should be indicative of a safe water mark, should be painted red and white. The other is a conical shaped buoy, which by modern conventions should be painted green. And you would expect the can-shaped buoy to be painted red.”

Robert McCabe from the Commissioners of Irish Lights gave a more historical view of the conical buoy's colour:
“The chances are the conical buoy was black. Black is a very visible colour against a sea or a sky.

At the time Belfast City Council said the change of colour was “a simple mistake” due to “miscommunication” and promised to correct the colour next time the buoys were painted.

That moment is now.

Passing the garden on Saturday evening, the buoys were in a sorry state. The paint is flaking off the two blue buoys. While it’s not strictly a memorial garden, the poor state of the buoys reflects badly on the burgeoning Cathedral Quarter and the council’s respect for the city’s rich maritime history.

Time to repaint the buoys … and time to get the correct colours.

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