Due to the arrival of the new Islay ferry MV Finlaggan and the fact that the current pier at Port Ellen was at the end of its serviceable life a Â£5M reconstruction project was started early this year. As a result the pier had to be closed for all ferry traffic, not for the barley boat. The closure started on the 25th of March and it was scheduled to be closed for nine months. Unfortunately due to some unforeseen circumstances the works at the Port Ellen Pier are delayed until the end of March 2012. That means that Port Ellen will have to wait another 6 months before it sees a Calmac ferry in its waters. Yesterday Mark Unsworth of Islay Studios sent me an image of the current situation and CMAL issued a press release earlier:
"Following the closure of Port Ellen to ferry traffic at the end of March, the contractor, McLaughlin & Harvey (McL&H) has been progressing work at the site to reconstruct the pier. The works were scheduled to complete in December 2011, however, due to unforeseen ground conditions, additional work on piping and recent adverse weather, the contractor has indicated that the works will now complete by March 2012. The main reason for the delay is an issue with bedrock in one area of the pier. Unforeseen additional work has also had to be carried out in relation to piping under the marshalling yard, which is crucial for unloading malting barley shipments for the islandâ€™s whisky industry. Continue reading....
"CMAL and the contractor have been working closely with Diageo, which operates the pipe, to create a long-term, sustainable solution, which will help secure future grain supplies and prevent potential future disruption to the pier, which might have been caused by the need to replace the pipes. To remove this potential issue, a new duct will be installed to house the pipe work, to allow for ease of replacement and avoid unnecessary disruption to the pier and the islandâ€™s whisky industry in the future. Diageo is covering the cost of the additional work in relation to the piping.
"Recent adverse weather conditions has also led to delays with the grain delivery boat berthing and unloading at the pier, which takes place every three weeks and is an integral part of the malt supply to many of the islandâ€™s distilleries. Work on the project is restricted while the vessel is berthed and this has led to further delays. However, the whisky industry has co-operated closely with the contractor on this issue and has delayed the docking of shipments where possible, to prevent interference with the reconstruction work.
"Lorna Spencer, Director of Harbours said: "CMAL is committed to completing the works at Port Ellen as quickly as possible and is working closely with the contractor to minimise any disruption. "We recently held a public meeting at Port Ellen to advise the local community of the delays and will ensure that we keep them updated with progress through our website and further public meetings."