Scottish Labour MSP calls for Ardrossan Harbour to be brought into public ownership as CalMac hits out at 'substandard' conditions

Ardrossan Harbour -Credit:Getty Images
Ardrossan Harbour -Credit:Getty Images

A West of Scotland Scottish Labour MSP has called for Ardrossan Harbour to be taken into public ownership and has welcomed comments from the boss of ferry operator CalMac who claimed a lack of investment has left the harbour in a ‘substandard’ condition.

Duncan Mackison, the interim chief executive of CalMac, warned that the company may have to switch its Arran sailings from Ardrossan to Troon on a permanent basis. Services to and from the island have been impacted by the closure of Ardrossan’s Irish berth earlier this year following safety inspections.

Ferries have increasingly been forced to sail from Troon but the journey takes longer. Earlier this week, Mr Mackison hit out at Peel Ports, the private owner of Ardrossan.

He said: “The berths at Ardrossan have had numerous issues over recent years, ranging from a fendering system that is very susceptible to damage, defects with the fendering system that have not been rectified in a timely manner, numerous failures of the linkspan and now the complete closure of the Irish berth.

“This is a result of a lack of investment from Peel Ports, with the general condition of the whole port being substandard.”

Mr Mackison added: “If the current situation at Ardrossan is not resolved there is a risk that CalMac will have to operate the Arran service from Troon to ensure we can provide a reliable timetabled service for the residents of Arran and the many visitors who wish to travel there.

“However, operating to Troon will result in a reduced frequency of service when compared with the service that should be operating from Ardrossan.”

Scottish Labour MSP, Ms Clark, has welcomed Mr Mackison’s comments and insists Peel Ports have ‘consistently failed to act’ on much needed upgrades.

She said: “This is a welcome intervention from CalMac which only adds weight to calls to strip Peel Ports of their ownership of this strategic national asset. Peel’s suggestion that the ferry operator is primarily responsible for ‘damaging’ the facilities is misplaced given this is infrastructure which is there to be used to run a public service.

“There has been a need to upgrade this infrastructure for many years. Peel has consistently failed to act, placing their profit margins and the interests of their shareholders ahead of the islanders and ferry users who rely upon this lifeline route.

“Labour has called for the harbour to be brought into public ownership for many years given Peel’s clear intransigence.

“It’s over six years since essential upgrades to the harbour were approved. As it stands, we’ve not even had a cast iron commitment from the Scottish Government that Ardrossan will remain the mainland port for the Arran service, as it has been for 190 years, come what may.

“Rather than endlessly chucking public money at this opaquely owned mega firm, it’s past time the Scottish Government reflected on how we manage our ports and maritime assets. Ardrossan Harbour should be publicly owned, with improvements urgently made so the Ardrossan-Arran route is maintained in the long term, which is what islanders, ferry users and the workforce are demanding.”

In response to Mr Mackison’s comments, Peel Ports rejected criticism and insisted it has invested millions in the harbour over recent years.

A spokesperson said: “The port is safe and effective for the vessels that should be using the facilities. Indeed, there have not been any cancellations at the Arran berth in recent history because of maintenance issues, unless it has been scheduled work to address damage caused by CalMac.

“We are willing to spend even more, if only the Scottish government and CalMac would agree on the specification and the business case so we can proceed, which we have been waiting for, for many years.”

Without redevelopment work at Ardrossan, two new CalMac ferries for the Arran route cannot use the harbour as they are too long.

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