Representatives of the Stornoway Port Authority will meet again with Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown, MSP, this Wednesday following fears the changes to ferry berthing will compromise safety and diminish provision.
The meeting with the Minister, the second within a month, is viewed as a ‘critical tipping point’ for the future of ferry operations in Stornoway. This week’s meeting follows a discussion in Edinburgh last month when the Port Authority were advised by Mr Brown that only a ‘do minimum’ infrastructure solution would be funded by the Government.
Port Authority Chief Executive, Jane Maciver said: “We are dismayed that the Scottish Government expects us to pay in excess of one million pounds to have our port facilities downgraded in order to provide a “solution” for the new ferry.
“The Port Authority firmly believes that the ‘solution’ being offered by the Government is based on inaccurate information, that it simply will not work and that the Minister would do well to listen to our views - views which we’ve tried to convey on many occasions.
“For them to focus to simply get the new ferry on a berth and ignore the consequences for the shore-side facilities are completely reprehensible - the safety aspects of the proposal are a great concern to the Port Authority.”
Currently ferries have two berths in Stornoway and two berths on the mainland (Ullapool and Uig) so there is always a back-up berth available.
Stornoway is one of the few ports on the west coast that has managed to separate commercial unaccompanied freight from cars, passengers and accompanied freight.
The proposed ‘minimum solution’ would mean there would only be one berth on either side of the Minch that the new ferry could go into - the nearest back-up berth on the mainland would be somewhere around the Clyde. The commercial freight will have to be marshalled alongside the other traffic. No additional car parking or public marshalling areas are planned as part of this solution.
And Ms Maciver added: “Worryingly, the position outlined by the Minister contravenes the terms of the contract that exists between the Port Authority and Caledonian Macbrayne Limited (now CMAL and CalMac Ferries Limited) and it is contrary to health and safety guidelines.
“The Scottish Government is trying, and failing, to make the infrastructure fit the ferry when their obligation is actually to make the ferry fit the infrastructure.”
She added: “We are hopeful that the Transport Minister will see the reasonableness of our case, reconsider and back a comprehensive and appropriate solution for Stornoway.”