Apolo­gies af­ter three con­sec­u­tive Sun­day sail­ings are can­celled

The Arran Banner - - News -

Ferry op­er­a­tor Cale­do­nian MacBrayne has apol­o­gised af­ter the 8.20am Sun­day sail­ing from Brod­ick to Ar­drossan was can­celled three times in suc­ces­sion last month.

Tak­ing place on Sun­day Novem­ber 11, 18 and 25, CalMac blamed the co­in­ci­den­tal can­cel­la­tions on the se­vere weather con­di­tions and a prob­lem with the pas­sen­ger ac­cess sys­tem (PAS).

In re­sponse to a com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Ken­neth Gib­son MSP, who was con­tacted by con­cerned con­stituents about the can­cel­la­tions, a spokesman for CalMac said: ‘On Fri­day Novem­ber 9, the ves­sel berthed in Brod­ick, how­ever the con­di­tions were se­vere and we in­curred some dam­age to the PAS. Tem­po­rary re­pairs were ef­fected. Due to bad weather the fol­low­ing week­end, the ves­sel was forced to berth overnight in Ar­drossan im­pact­ing on the 8.20 on Sun­day.

Al­ter­na­tive

‘With­out dis­rupt­ing ser­vice, other than a Satur­day night we are un­able to carry out any in-berth tests there­fore af­ter com­ple­tion of ser­vice on Satur­day night we were at­tempt­ing to test an al­ter­na­tive crew gang­way which can be used to al­low the crew to leave the ves­sel in an emer­gency.

‘The gang­way was hooked up to the gang­way hoist and at­tempted to be brought on board. Un­for­tu­nately, we were un­able to get the gang­way con­nected due to is­sues with the fixed end of the PAS foul­ing the end of the gang­way, pre­vent­ing the gang­way be­ing an­gled enough.

‘There was lit­tle lee­way to move the ves­sel to ac­com­mo­date this and in ad­di­tion it was noted that the gang­way was not en­gag­ing fully with the latch bar on the ves­sel. As a re­sult, we were un­able to carry out a weight test which is re­quired for us to be able to use the gang­way. There­fore, it was de­cided to abort the work.

‘Given the amount of swell present, the op­tion of stay­ing in Brod­ick with the stern ramp down (to al­low crew emer­gency exit) wasn’t an op­tion given the po­ten­tial to dam­age ei­ther the ramp or the linkspan. As such, the ves­sel re­turned to Ar­drossan for the night. This meant the 8.20am from Brod­ick was can­celled.

‘We are very con­scious of the need to pro­vide timely and fre­quent ser­vice up­dates. Un­for­tu­nately, there was no ad­vance warn­ing of the is­sue that caused the can­celled sail­ing hence the lack of prior no­tice to cus­tomers on the 24th for the sail­ing on the 25th.

‘Please ac­cept our apolo­gies for the dis­rup­tion and in­con­ve­nience to our pas­sen­gers. We are grate­ful for their con­tin­ued pa­tience.’

Mr Gib­son said: ‘Many is­lan­ders are scep­ti­cal that the same sail­ing was can­celled three weeks in a row. How­ever, CalMac is aware of such con­cerns and is work­ing to en­sure no fur­ther Sun­day morn­ing can­cel­la­tions.

In­for­ma­tion

‘What is also vi­tally im­por­tant – and CalMac agrees – is that trav­ellers are given up to date and con­sis­tent in­for­ma­tion when sail­ings are can­celled or dis­rupted if they are to main­tain the con­fi­dence and trust of cus­tomers.’

Adding to the dif­fi­cul­ties with the PAS, there have also been con­cerns re­gard­ing the Ir­ish berth – the back-up berth in Ar­drossan which is used in cer­tain wind con­di­tions and which has been re­moved from ser­vice.

Up­dates

The CalMac web­site, which pro­vides ser­vice up­dates and no­tices of can­cel­la­tion and dis­rup­tion, states: ‘Due to tech­ni­cal is­sues, CalMac will not be us­ing the Ir­ish berth at Ar­drossan with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. As a re­sult, there may be dis­rup­tion to the ser­vice in the event of ad­verse weather.’

Jamie Greene MSP, who has also been con­tacted by res­i­dents af­ter strong east­erly winds caused dis­rup­tion to ser­vices last week, said: ‘These re­ports raise some se­ri­ous con­cerns as it ap­pears that with­out the use of the Ir­ish berth, the Ar­drossan ferry can only dock un­der cer­tain weather con­di­tions, which mas­sively im­pacts the re­li­a­bil­ity of the ser­vice.

‘The Ar­drossan to Brod­ick route is a life­line one for peo­ple to travel, work and ac­cess pub­lic ser­vices. Three days of spec­u­la­tive can­cel­la­tions be­cause the ferry can no longer dock in harsh weather just isn’t ac­cept­able; it dis­rupts lives and im­pacts on lo­cal busi­nesses.

Make clear

‘The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment must make clear why nei­ther ves­sel can dock in harsh weather with­out the Ir­ish berth, why it is cur­rently closed and what long-term con­tin­gen-

cy plans are in place if the berth is out of op­er­a­tion for long pe­ri­ods of time. I will be rais­ing this mat­ter in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment at the next op­por­tu­nity.’

In look­ing at re­solv­ing the is­sue with the PAS, CMAL – owner of the ves­sels and ports – and the PAS man­u­fac­turer have vis­ited Brod­ick and have as­sessed the PAS to look at op­tions avail­able to them.

A spokesman for CalMac said: ‘We are also dis­cussing with them al­ter­na­tive short-term op­tions to berth the ves­sel with­out the crew gang­way to pro­tect the week­end timetable.

‘In ad­di­tion, we are also ex­plor­ing sourc­ing a new crew gang­way de­sign as a back-up.’

The mov­able PAS en­trance from the walk­way to the ferry.

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