The Irish berth at Ardrossan Harbour is to shut permanently in what is being described as a ‘hammer blow’ for island residents.
The berth, used by Calmac since May instead of the harbour’s primary Arran berth, is the only dock the catamaran MV Alfred can use to cross over to the island.
The vessel, owned by Pentland Ferries, has been supporting the MV Caledonian Isles – the vessel originally intended to operate the route – while “ongoing maintenance and engine repairs” are undertaken.
The berth closure is said to be due to wear and tear caused by increased use of the dock which Peel Ports Group – the owner of the harbour – say it was never designed for.
MV Alfred services were paused during the middle of last month as dive inspections on the berth took place following routine maintenance inspections.
Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: “This latest revelation is another hammer blow for Arran residents. It defies belief that the million-pounds-a-month rental ferry now can’t even use the very port it was hired to service. Serious questions must be asked as to how the SNP let this latest calamity happen.
“We have one ageing vessel which is frequently out of action for lengthy repairs, another on loan costing the taxpayer a fortune, and the new one languishing in Port Glasgow almost seven years late.
“Is it any wonder islanders feel utterly betrayed by SNP ministers?
“We need urgently clarity on whether the MV Alfred can carry passengers as well as freight from Troon. All of this raises worrying questions about the long-term future of Ardrossan as the port of choice for Arran.
“If you asked AI to write a script about an incompetent government cutting off its own citizens from mainland Scotland, the result wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the utter fiasco that the SNP have created.”
The harbour’s main Arran berth remains fully operational and the owners say they are “acutely aware” of the frustration passengers feel towards the ferry service.
“It is offered when available and when needed, such as when the harbour faces adverse weather like strong easterly winds that affect the use of the Arran berth. There is no contractual commitment for its use.
“Initial indications suggested the MV Caledonian Isles would only be out of service for a temporary period, and the Alfred was introduced as a short-term relief vessel.
“However, the Caledonian has remained out of use, with little indication as to its future, meaning that the Irish berth has had to support the route for much longer than intended.
“We’re acutely aware that the closure of the Irish berth has already added to the frustration that’s long been felt by users of the ferry service, however safety must always be our priority.”
“We would like to reassure the residents and businesses of Arran that the Arran berth is the primary berth for ferries into Ardrossan harbour, and that service will continue to be used as normal, subject to any extreme weather conditions.”
Ordered by the Scottish Government, a business case review on an upgrade to the harbour, delayed for six years, is to be reported in February.
McSporran added: “We are deeply concerned that the people served by this lifeline service are unable to plan for their future because of the lengthy delays that have affected the redevelopment to date.
“We have already provided around 80% of the funds required to progress the wider project up to this point, and we will continue to work with the funding partners on the procurement of this project.
“We eagerly await the conclusion of the business case review, and we are hopeful the Scottish Government will commit permanently to Ardrossan as the destination for the Arran ferry.”
Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “We are incredibly frustrated on behalf of our communities that Peel Ports have allowed the Irish berth to remain in a state of disrepair, to the point that today they announced it has been closed.
“It is the responsibility of the harbour authority to ensure safe use of the harbour, and we rely on the owners to ensure that they are fully operational. Otherwise, our ability to provide a reliable service to the communities we serve is more difficult.
“The berth was already in a very poor state of repair when we introduced MV Alfred onto the main Arran route in May last year. We remain concerned about the condition of the main berth in Ardrossan which has required maintenance work recently.
“Although this closure is challenging, we remain committed to doing our utmost to support our communities. We will continue to operate services to Arran using the main berth at Ardrossan with MV Isle of Arran, with additional commercial services provided by MV Alfred from Troon, until MV Caledonian Isles has returned from annual overhaul.”
The SNP has been contacted for comment.
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