While the new Islay ferry is currently being built in Poland, the news around the Port Ellen pier and the works at Port Askaig was relatively quiet, until last week that is. Out of the blue a meeting was organised by the Argyll and Bute Council, not on Friday, which was published on this blog, but a day earlier on Thursday, which was the reason for some to miss the meeting. Carl Reavey however was there and heard that the initial fears that the new ferry wouldn't fit the new Port Askaig link span were confirmed by Peter Ward, engineer at the Port Askaig project. The following story was published in the Ileach on the 1st of August:
Peter Ward, the Principal Engineer at the Port Askaig Pier development by Argyll and Bute Council told a public meeting held at Ballygrant Hall on Thursday 30th July that it is his 'understanding' that the new Â£25 million CalMac (CMAL) ferry currently being built in Poland for the Islay route 'will not fit' the new Port Askaig linkspan. Ward said that the Council had built the linkspan and associated piers to a particular specification and that these specifications had been supplied to CalMac. Whether or not CalMac had designed the new ferry to fit the Councilâ€™s pier was 'up to them' said Ward. He went on to say that he understands that there are â€˜minor modificationsâ€™ that will need to be carried out to the linkspan to enable it to interface to the new ferry, but that: 'these will be the responsibility of CalMac (CMAL) and that the Council would not be paying for them.' Continue reading......
There had been very little advance notice for the meeting which was held because the Council was attempting to obtain 'clarity' over a number of issues of concern to pier users. Despite this, some 25 local people turned out and a number of local fishermen in particular made their views plain. It was felt however that the issues raised had been discussed at various levels with the Council on a number of previous occasions without result, and that in any event, it would have been more productive to hold the meeting to discuss problems with pier ladders etc â€˜on siteâ€™. Mr Ward said that this was not possible however due to Health and Safety issues.
Mr Ward undertook to further investigate the possibility and practicality of attaching additional ladders to the pier face of the Inner Harbour, and to reducing the size of the protruding wooden piles on the face to facilitate easier berthing for the fishing boats. There would also be further attempts made to remove boulders from the seabed in the Inner Harbour which are restricting the available operational depth. Two previous attempts to remove the boulders by dredging had failed.
Ward was unequivocal about the priorities that had been addressed by the development. The primary purpose of the Port Askaig project was the Governmentâ€™s priority to develop an 'Integrated Transport System'. Any benefits that accrued in other areas, such as fishing, yachting, small boats or economic development were secondary issues, and while the Council had attempted to do its best to deliver benefits to these different interest groups, transport had to remain their primary focus.
There were then a number of questions from the floor about the difficulties of berthing the Jura ferry to the new slip at Port Askaig, but Mr Ward assured everyone that these had been exaggerated and that the new facility meets specification. Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, will officially open the Port Askaig pier development on 10th September.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.