Arran faces more ferry woes after berth closure

Islanders on Arran are facing more ferry disruption following the emergency closure of Ardrossan harbour's Irish berth.

The only ferry currently still operating may now be unable to use Ardrossan's main Arran berth because days of strong easterly winds are forecast.

Ferry operator CalMac has cancelled Wednesday sailings so it can test out whether MV Isle of Arran can use Troon harbour instead.

CalMac also confirmed that the main Arran ferry MV Caledonian Isles will remain out of action for repairs.

The Ardrossan-Brodick route is the main ferry crossing linking Arran to the mainland.

A chartered catamaran MV Alfred was providing extra capacity but had to be withdrawn after divers discovered problems with the Irish berth, the only place at the harbour the vessel was able to use.

Another ship, MV Isle of Arran, continued to provide sailings from the harbour's main Arran berth - but this berth is susceptible to strong easterly winds which are predicted in the coming days.

Ardrossan harbour is owned by Peel Ports which controls a large number of strategic sites on the Clyde coastline and is also the port authority.

CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond said the operator was committed to serving communities in Arran and Ayrshire despite the current challenges.

He said: “The sudden closure of the Irish berth at Ardrossan harbour is symptomatic of the lack of investment – which has long been promised but never delivered – at the port.

“Everyone at CalMac, who is committed to delivering a reliable ferry service to travellers on Arran and the mainland, shares in the local community’s disappointment at the decision."

He said extra sailings between Arran and Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula were running and CalMac was hoping to get new sailings from Troon up and running as soon as possible.

In a statement last week, Peel Ports said the Irish berth was only ever a reserve berth for ferries, and its increased use over the past year had accelerated wear and tear.

A multi-million plan to redevelop Ardrossan harbour was announced by then transport minister Humza Yousaf six years ago, but was paused for review by Transport Scotland last year after projected costs spiralled.

The costs of redevelopment were due to be shared between Peel Ports, North Ayrshire Council and the Scottish government.

CalMac has also confirmed that MV Caledonian Isles, which began annual maintenance on 4 January, will be out of action for longer than expected.

Extra steel work will be required and the ship is due to move to Cammell Laird dockyard near Birkenhead later this week for more inspections in dry dock.

The ship is normally the main vessel serving Arran, but there is no date confirmed yet for its return to service.

Two new ferries earmarked for the Arran route, being built at Ferguson shipyard, are too large to use Ardrossan without redevelopment.

MV Glen Sannox, due for delivery this summer, is initially expected to operate from Troon.

The Ardrossan redevelopment plan also included a dedicated liquefied natural gas refuelling facility for the dual-fuel new ferries, but they will initially have to be refuelled from tankers or run solely on diesel.