About a month ago I published a press release on the blog about the reconstruction of Port Ellen Pier. This Â£5M reconstruction will replace the existing pier and as a direct result of the works, duration nine months, the pier will be closed for ferry traffic until the end of this year. The reason for the reconstruction is two fold, the current pier has reached the end of its serviceable life. The other reason is that the new Islay ferry MV Finlaggan will start servicing the Islay route in May or June this year and the current pier/link span are not sufficient enough to dock the Finlaggan. This is however not the only linkspan not being able to dock the Finlaggan, the Port Askaig linkspan wasn't fit for the job either and works have been carried out recently to modify it which means the Finlaggan is now able to dock at Port Askaig. In the run up to the closure of Port Ellen Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) hosted a project meeting at Ramsay Hall in Port Ellen. The interesting outcome of this meeting, written by Dr. Margaret Storrie, can be found below:
Wednesday 9 March was a wild and wet night when about seventy islanders ventured to the Ramsay Hall in Port Ellen to be updated by CMAL on the imminent reconstruction of Port Ellen pier and relevant information concerning Port Askaig and Kennacraig. CMALâ€™s engineer, Ramsay Muirhead introduced John McCarey and Joe McEldiff of McLauglin and Harvey, who have been awarded the construction contract. Others in attendance included John McLaren and Chris Angwin of Halcrow, the consulting engineers, Tony Ford, CMALâ€™s recently appointed harbour master, and Calmacâ€™s port manager, Andrew Campbell. Continue reading......
The dim eco lighting in the hall was relieved by the bright screen on which Ramsay Muirhead not only showed the latest plans for Port Ellen pier and harbour, but also the up-to-the-minute exterior and interior shots of the shiny new MV Finlaggan. The last sailing from Port Ellen will be at 7am on Friday 25 March; the programme of works from then till July was outlined. The harbour will remain open for fishing boats, the grain boat, yachtsmen and other small craft â€“ and for the Tall Shipsâ€™ visit in mid-July.
Since most of the technical issues had been dealt with either at previous meetings or in talks with those users most concerned, much of the subsequent discussion revolved around access for foot passengers. At these meetings, the same few interested people come from other parts of the island. But the issues dealt with concern all islanders, not just those from Port Ellen.
New Port Ellen Pier Layout
Passenger entry to the new vessel will be at a higher level and will be moved one deck up on the Hebridean Isles, so, in response to questions from the floor, the different access scenarios at Port Ellen, Port Askaig and Kennacraig were outlined. But without sketches, some of the implications were not immediately clear. CMAL have offered to arrange monthly public meetings in Port Ellen for the rest of the year, so it would be helpful if this issue was explained and illustrated in more detail at the next meeting. CMAL also aim to have an ongoing information board erected in Port Ellen; and further information is available on their website at www.cmassets.co.uk
The vexed question of passenger luggage, carrying and storage, remains not only antedeluvian, but worse even than twenty years ago, in this day and age is a major security deficit and is not here under consideration. The question of short-term parking space at the pier is, however, still being considered. Not strictly part of the remit of the meeting, but raised, was the timetable for connecting buses for the rest of this year when all ferry sailings will be to and from Port Askaig. It is currently being negotiated between Cal Mac and Mundells, but probably falls short of ideal â€“ which is why users from the rest of the island â€“ especially those in the visitor sector - need to make their voices heard.
The prevailing mood of the meeting was pleasant and co-operative and Halcrow and the contractors will be available on site to resolve any problems that should arise. One representative ventured the opinion that we will have a pier and new vessel to be very proud of; and an islander even lauded the choice of contractor. After the costly and overrun fiascos of Port Askaig and Bruichladdich, fingers crossed!
For more detailed information about the Port Ellen Reconstruction you can visit www.cmassets.co.uk