Storm brews over ferry cancellations

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Passengers on both sides of the Firth of Clyde were left angry and frustrated on Wednesday after a calamitous day of ferry cancellations.

The first sailing of the day of the MV Caledonian Isles, which was due to arrive in Brodick at 7.55am, was unable to berth despite coming alongside the new pier and so made a 55-minute return journey to Ardrossan.

With winds predicted to gust at 14mph, CalMac advised that the weather was worse than expected and, in an online service status update, stated that further ferries would be cancelled pending a review at noon.

Passengers wishing to make use of the service in both Brodick and Ardrossan, who contacted the Banner by telephone, email and through social media, questioned the wisdom of the decision to cancel services as current wind forecasts for both Ardrossan and Brodick were showing winds to be barely above 7mph.

Over in Ardrossan, too, passengers still trying to get to Brodick were given hope that the 12.30pm ferry would sail, but these were dashed with all drivers being advised to book on the 3.20pm.

Anger reached a crescendo just after noon when ‘owing to adverse weather’ further cancellations were announced with the first sailing scheduled for 3.20pm. A flurry of photographs and images showing calm conditions with barely a breath of wind started circulating online and were shared with the Banner, many expressing incredulity at the reason for cancellations.

One passenger in Ardrossan, when questioning why, in calm wind conditions, they were being told the ferry was being cancelled due to the high winds, said he was told it was conditions in Brodick that were causing the problem. Simultaneously people in Brodick were pointing out that the wind socks – indicators of wind speed – were hanging vertically and barely moving in the breeze.

With the vagaries of the weather and conditions in the Clyde, outwith the two terminals unknown by those witnessing the sea from the land, it is difficult to assess whether the cancellations were justified or erring on the side of caution but the reaction from the travelling public was one of dismay.

The newly constructed terminal in Brodick was then attacked for being unfit for purpose, claims even started being made that since a shift change was due for staff and that it suited CalMac to not have to run a service – to the detriment of those who needed to use the ferry.

Hinting at further disruption, one email correspondent lambasted the new pier itself, writing: ‘In this wind direction (east) there would previously have been no problem at the old pier. CMAL have spent £31.5M to turn the east wind into a problem at Brodick. This was all well predicted by master and past master mariners prior to construction.’

By 3.20pm, the first ferry to berth successfully at Brodick set off from Ardrossan, while away from the sea itself, the storm about perceived service levels, ships, ports and terminals, continues to rage on.

A CalMac spokesman said the problem with the first berthing was down to sea swell.

‘The master tried three times to berth the first sailing of the day and deemed it too dangerous for both infrastructure and passengers and crew to keep trying. The sea state has since calmed and sailing recommenced with the 15.20 sailing from Ardrossan,’ he added.