It is now more than three months since the last visit of the oil tanker Keewhit to Bruichladdich pier. The tanker is chartered by Shell UK from Whitaker Tankers to deliver heavy oil and diesel fuel to the island. All Islay distilleries are now using oil broughtÂ onto the island in road tankers via the CalMac ferries. The Ileach understands that after more than a year of extremely erratic supplies of oil which caused a number of operational problems and interruptions to production schedules, several distilleries have welcomed the increased reliability that has come with receiving oil deliveries by road. The fuel brought in by road tanker is 'marginally' more expensive than oil brought in by sea, but the continuity of supply offsets the relatively small additional costs. The need to use ferries to ship the fourteen fuel tankers a week required to keep the island supplied with fuel that was historically brought by sea has also provided a welcome boost to Caledonian MacBrayne who have been operating an 'additional freight service' during the winter of 2007/8 for the first time using the network 'relief vessel' the Isle of Arran. This additional service does not attract any additional subsidy from the Scottish Executive over and above that required to run the core winter timetableÂ and so the additional revenue from the tankers will help make the case to maintain the service in subsequent winter periods. Continue reading.....Meanwhile, there has been no public statement about when, or even if, fuel supplies will resume through the Â£3 million Bruichladdich pier extension that was built with public money specifically to enable Shell to land oil to its customers. The depth of water at the pier is insufficient to allow a fully laden Keewhit to dock, and after more than a year of official denials that there was anything wrong with the pier, and several abortive attempts to dredge, the issue of insufficient depth is finally to be addressed by using explosives to clear bedrock on the seabed. A special license to do this is now being obtained. Explosives were previously used at Bruichladdich pier during the initial renovation period, but evidently not successfully. The Ileach has asked local councilors on several occasions to answer two key questions regarding the refurbishment of Bruichladdich pier i.e. who provided the original specification for the refurbishment, and who subsequently signed it off on completion as fit for purpose? We have never received a response. With costs ofÂ the project reaching Â£3 million (and rising), interest payments on the capital borrowed by Argyll and Bute Council to effect the refurbishment are mounting. Interest during the three months that the pier has lain idle without earning landing fees from Shell will have accumulated in the region of Â£50,000.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.