The continuing stalemate at the Â£3million Bruichladdich Pier extension, which is still unable to routinely dock the one ship that it was â€œdesignedâ€ to accommodate, could not be in starker contrast to the news from the Hebridean island of Grimsay where a Â£3million pier extension was opened for the local shellfishing fleet this month. The Bruichladdich Pier development, which went ahead in order to allow Shell UK to continue to deliver heavy fuel oil for the Islay distilleries, faced significant, if ultimately futile, local opposition on environmental grounds and also because the structure offered no benefit to the wider local community - particularly fishing boats and leisure craft.
The inability of Argyll and Bute Council to resolve the problems at the pier means that large amounts of fuel for the distilleries have had to be brought in by road tanker on the ferry. Meanwhile the pier, paid for by public money, is massively under utilised. The tanker â€œKeewhitâ€, for which it was built, can only deliver loads when a suitable weather window coincides with a high tide, and even then it is only able to dock carrying around 600 tons of fuel, which is way below its actual capacity. We can only assume that the pier dues, which should have been forthcoming from Shell and used to finance the capital expenditure, have also not been forthcoming, causing a further drain on the public purse. Continue reading.....The irony of the situation is that Argyll and Bute Council were essentially blackmailed into providing the pier extension on the grounds that unless they did so, Shell would stop fuel deliveries to the island. The threat panicked the Council (supported by many of the distilleries) into rushing through this poorly thought out and incompetently implemented pier extension which is now of little use to anyone. The contrast with the efforts of Comhairle na Eilan Siar, the Western Isles Council, to support the local community on the tiny island of Grimsay could not be greater.
As long ago as 1985, it was recognised that investment in a harbour infrastructure was needed - and their Council came up with an innovative solution - called a â€œbox harbourâ€. The only problem was that this was so successful, the number of boats using it soon rendered it too small - hence the need for the Â£3 million extension which has just been completed. 25 small boats, mostly fishing shellfish, now operate from Kallin and a new five-tons a day ice plant is to be built.
While the black comedy at Bruichladdich was being played out, Argyll and Bute Council was busy extracting millions of tons of rock from Port Askaig to build a car park. They then paid a local landowner to have the rock dumped in a disused quarry. The opportunity to use the rock to build a breakwater at Bruichladdich, (or perhaps use it to reclaim the land from the sea at Port Ellen per the current CMAL proposal) was passed up. Presumably it was the wrong sort of rock...
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.