Part of an Scots port crucial for use of ferries has been closed for good in the wake of safety issues.

The Irish Berth at Ardrossan, which had been used by an emergency CalMac ferry for the key lifeline route to Arran was put out of action on January 18 when the harbour authority ordered all users to cease operations.

It was expected to be out of action until at least January 24 and remains so with no definitive date over when or if it will be back in service.

MV Alfred, as it is unable to use the alternative Ardrossan berth, ended up sent to Ayr and is now providing a freight-only services from Troon.

Now Peel Ports Group, the harbour owner has decided to close the reserve berth for good due to "accelerated wear and tear" which they say is caused by its increased use.

It comes after the Herald revealed that the port may not ever by used to take much delayed and over-budget ferries despite the green light being given for upgrade works by the current First Minister six years ago.

The Herald previously revealed that the costs of the project to upgrade the mainland port of what is one of Scotland's busiest ferry routes, which is in limbo, has doubled.

Business minister Ivan McKee insisted in September 2022 that the harbour and port infrastructure at Ardrossan would be ready to take the two lifeline ferries when they finally set sail after being built at the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard in Inverclyde.

It was Humza Yousaf, the current First Minister, who was then transport minister, who gave the green light for the major upgrade at Ardrossan in April 2018, nearly three years after the contracts were signed to have Inverclyde shipyard firm Ferguson Marine build the ferries.

It followed a public commitment from the Scottish Government that Ardrossan would remain Arran's mainland port, in the face of a rival bid from Troon.

READ MORE: Scotland's Ferries | Exclusive: Key Scots port won't take ferry fiasco ships as costs balloon in new 'farce'

But the Ardrossan harbour debacle has been described as big a farce as the ferry fiasco which has stained the Scottish Government's reputation.

The Herald: Ardrossan ferry terminal

The Scottish Government-owned ferry operator CalMac has already been planning to use Troon rather than Ardrossan for the two ferries that will serve Arran. That was when it was hoped that the first of the vessels would be ready for passengers in the Spring of last year.

Scottish Government sources have confirmed that the full business case for the project remains incomplete and that there is even uncertainty over the project costs. Consequently, the project has still to be put out to tender.

And earlier this week, Scottish Government confirmed that no decision had been made over whether Ardrossan would remain the mainland port for the Arran service – placing serious question marks over the upgrade project.

It is understood there have been issues over how the cost – which in 2022 was estimated at £40m – would be divided between the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, the harbour owner Peel Ports and North Ayrshire Council.

There have been further discussions amongst funding partners over the required project scope – which could set the costs even higher.

According to one letter from the Scottish Government to the Ardrossan Harbour Task Force, made up of the potential funding partners and co-ordinated by the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, concerns about the integrity of the quay walls have been heightened following recent structural failures to parts.

The walls were expected to provide support to an LNG tank, which would be used to help fuel the vessels.

According to Peel Ports, the "extended and regular use has caused accelerated wear and tear to the berth’s structure, making it unsafe for continued service". T It said the harbour’s main Arran berth remains fully operational.

Jim McSporran, port director of Peel Ports Clydeport said: “The Irish berth is a temporary floating pontoon and acts as an auxiliary berth, intended for occasional use only.

"It is offered when available and when needed, such as when the harbour faces adverse weather like strong easterly winds that affect the use of the Arran berth. There is no contractual commitment for its use.

“Initial indications suggested the MV Caledonian Isles would only be out of service for a temporary period, and the Alfred was introduced as a short-term relief vessel.

The Herald: MV Alfred

"However, the Caledonian has remained out of use, with little indication as to its future, meaning that the Irish berth has had to support the route for much longer than intended.

“We’re acutely aware that the closure of the Irish berth has already added to the frustration that’s long been felt by users of the ferry service, however safety must always be our priority."

An indicative project programme for Ardrossan was presented to the ministerial task force early last year which then indicated that construction was expected to begin this spring with completion by spring 2026 – too late for either of the ferries.

Both ferries, Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa were due online in the first half of 2018, with one intitially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, but are at least six years late, with costs expected to be quadruple the original £97m contract. It has been confirmed that both are now to serve Arran.

Glen Rosa was meant to be delivered to CalMac in August 2018, but that is currently scheduled for May 2025. Glen Sannox, was launched by Nicola Sturgeon nearly seven years ago and is due for delivery in the spring.

The Herald: The Glen Sannox

But the dates of arrival have been constantly in a state of flux as their construction has been plagued by design challenges, cost overruns and delays.

Mr McSporran added: "We would like to reassure the residents and businesses of Arran that the Arran berth is the primary berth for ferries into Ardrossan harbour, and that service will continue to be used as normal, subject to any extreme weather conditions.”

Mr McSporran continued: “We are deeply concerned that the people served by this lifeline service are unable to plan for their future because of the lengthy delays that have affected the redevelopment to date.

"We have already provided around 80 per cent of the funds required to progress the wider project up to this point, and we will continue to work with the funding partners on the procurement of this project.

“We eagerly await the conclusion of the business case review, and we are hopeful the Scottish Government will commit permanently to Ardrossan as the destination for the Arran ferry.”

Katy Clark, Scottish Labour MSP for West Scotland, said: “This is another huge hammer blow for Ardrossan just days after the Scottish Government mooted the possibility the service could be relocated from the town.

“Ferry users and the local community have been failed miserably by owner Peel Ports and dithering Scottish Government ministers in the six years since the harbour upgrade project was announced. Today, the costs are unclear, there is no clear business plan in place and we are no closer to putting the infrastructure in place needed to run two lifeline ferries which were ordered whole nine years ago.

“The Scottish Government must now urgently clarify whether this latest closure will affect its proposed business case for the Harbour redevelopment project and what clear mitigatory processes it will set up for the service in scenarios where the Arran Berth is also out of use.

“I have written to Ardrossan Harbour Task Force members to demand a thorough assessment is made of the social and economic value of the ferry service to the town. A prolonged move to Troon would be absolutely devastating for Ardrossan. The Scottish Government must review this and reiterate its commitment that Ardrossan will remain the permanent destination for the Arran ferry.”

Scottish Conservative West Scotland MSP Jamie Greene added: “This latest revelation is another hammer blow for Arran residents. It defies belief that the million-pounds-a-month rental ferry now can't even use the very port it was hired to service. Serious questions must be asked as to how the SNP let this latest calamity happen.

“We have one ageing vessel which is frequently out of action for lengthy repairs, another on loan costing the taxpayer a fortune, and the new one languishing in Port Glasgow almost seven years late.

“Is it any wonder islanders feel utterly betrayed by SNP ministers? 

"We need urgently clarity on whether the MV Alfred can carry passengers as well as freight from Troon. All of this raises worrying questions about the long-term future of Ardrossan as the port of choice for Arran.  "


“If you asked AI to write a script about an incompetent government cutting off its own citizens from mainland Scotland, the result wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the utter fiasco that the SNP have created.”