Transport Minister says only â€˜very minor modificationsâ€™ are required to the new linkspan at Port Askaig. New Islay ferry 'will be able to be accommodated at Kennacraig'
Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has responded to letters and emails from Argyll and Bute MSP Jim Mather with regard to the redevelopment of Port Ellen and Kennacraig. The full text of his response to Jim Mather is as follows:
Dear Jim, Thank you for your letters of 31 March, 4 April 2009 and e-mail of 13 April 2009 about the new Islay vessel and its compatibility with the existing pier infrastructures on, Islay and Kennacraig.
At the outset, I would like to allay any fears or concerns there are about the deployment of the new Islay vessel which is currently under construction in Poland. I can confirm that the new vessel will be deployed on the Kennacraig to Islay service from spring 2011. The Clyde and Hebrides ferry services contract specifies a two vessel service from Kennacraig to Islay and that is what will continue to be provided. There are no plans to alter the current timetable. Continue reading....This new vessel is being financed by a Â£24.5 million loan from the Scottish Government to Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL). This considerable investment in the new vessel is illustration of the Governmentâ€™s commitment to Scotlandâ€™s lifeline ferry services. This Government is investing some Â£104 million in the current financial year to support lifeline ferry services to our remote and island communities. The new vessel has been designed to serve Islayâ€™s needs for many years into the future and as such, will be longer, wider, more powerful, more manoeuvrable and have greater carrying capacity than either of the vessels that presently serve Islay. These significant changes in dimensions are the reasons why this new vessel cannot fit the existing berthing facilities at Port Ellen, that were intended to accommodate smaller vessels.
However, it is anticipated that this new vessel will improve the reliability of the service to Port Askaig in bad weather. The second vessel that would be deployed would still be able to use the Port Ellen berth, so the impact of the new vessel not being able to be acommodated at Port Ellen will not be significant. Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, as owners of the Port Ellen and Kennacraig piers, are currently developing options for major improvements to the berthing and passenger facilities. CMAL will continue to liaise with the local communities regarding the developrhent of the ferry options at these locations. As with all major capital works projects, the actual construction start date would depend on affordability and the availability of funding. Considerable investment has already been made at Port Askaig and the new vessel will be able to berth there, subject to some very minor modifications to the new linkspan which will be carried out prior to delivery of the new vessel in 2011. CMAL, CalMac Ferries Ltd and Argyll and Bute Council will continue to liaise regarding the technical issues that have been identified at Port Askaig. CMAL and CalMac Ferries Ltd will aliso liaise and address any minor compatibility issues relating to new vessel berthing at Kennacraig but I can assure you that the new Islay ferry will be able to be accommodated at Kennacraig when it comes into service.
I hope this clarifies matters following recent press articles that appeared in the Ileach and the Daily Express.
Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, Infarastructure and Climate Change
Furthermore the Ileach reported that CMAL told McGrigor that Port Ellen and Kennacraig are 'priorities'. Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor met with Guy Platten, managing director or Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) this week. Mr Platten said that the redevelopment of Port Ellen and Kennacraig are 'priorities' for CMAL that would be addressed ahead of other capital projects that require significant funding - specifically Brodick Pier on Arran and the number one pier at Oban. Mr Platten did reiterate however that the final decisions as to the availability of funds would rest with the Scottish Government.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.