Sinkhole opens up travel disruption for ferry operator

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By Colin Smeeton

Arran this week faced a new adversary disrupting the smooth running of the island ferry services when a sinkhole appeared on Winton Pier in Ardrossan.

The immediate closure of the Arran berth disrupted passengers and island deliveries as ferry operator CalMac cancelled ferry sailings on Tuesday morning until harbour owner Peel Ports could provide assurance that the pier was safe to use.

Owing to weather conditions, described by CalMac as ‘higher’ than forecast, the Irish berth could not be used as an alternative in the morning and services were diverted to Gourock until an easing in the weather allowed the Irish berth to be utilised by both vessels later in the day.

Speaking on Tuesday, Finlay MacRae, head of operations for CalMac, said: ‘Due to a safety issue with the Arran berth at Ardrossan we are currently unable to use it.

‘The alternative Irish berth is unavailable today due to the weather conditions, however, services will return to the Irish berth at Ardrossan when weather conditions allow. Services from Arran are therefore being diverted to Gourock at this time.

‘We have asked harbour owner Peel Ports to provide an assurance that the Arran berth is safe to use. Customers are being kept up to date about changes to their journeys and replacement buses are being arranged for foot passengers.’

By Wednesday morning a Peel Ports Clydeport spokesperson said: ‘Peel Ports staff and specialist engineers have examined the unused Winton Pier and a decision has been taken to secure it, while further investigations are ongoing.’

CalMac managed to ferry passengers and deliveries to and from Brodick using the Irish berth throughout Wednesday, although passengers had to embark and disembark via the car deck and the service was put on amber alert and at heightened risk of disruption and cancellation.

Using the Irish berth as a replacement and main port is not a viable alternative for CalMac or Peel Ports as it does not allow for the Passenger Access System to be used and it is particularly susceptible to disruption owing to weather, daily and seasonal tidal conditions.

At the time of going to press CalMac was still waiting for a safety update on the condition of the Arran berth from Peel Ports and maintained the service using the Irish berth, with Gourock being considered as the alternative port during unfavourable tidal conditions.