AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into safety issues at a pier in Ardrossan that has led to disruption to one of Scotland's busiest ferry services.

It is believed the issues surround a hole that has appeared and ferry operator CalMac has warned that ferries between the port and Arran could be diverted to Gourock at short notice.

Some services on the Ardrossan to Arran service had to be diverted to Gourock on Tuesday because of what the state-run CalMac described as a "safety issue" with a berth.

It is understood CalMac has sought assurances from harbour owner Peel Ports that the berth dedicated for Arran ferries is safe for passengers, staff and vessels to use before continuing to use it.

CalMac is using a different berth until there is an assurance on safety.

All foot passengers have been told they will be required to board and disembark via the car deck.

But CalMac has also warned that as they are unable to use the berth in certain weather conditions, it may be necessary to divert services to Gourock at short notice.

It warned that due to tidal conditions at the berth the 6pm from Brodick and 7.20pm from Ardrossan are at a heightened risk of disruption.

Peel Ports Clydeport said that they had launched a probe into the issues at Winton Pier and that access has been restricted.

HeraldScotland:

A Peel Ports Clydeport spokesman said: “Peel Ports staff and specialist engineers have examined the unused Winton Pier and a decision has been taken to secure it, while further investigations are ongoing.”

Passengers were told that the Gourock diversion will be an option until CalMac gets assurances from the harbour owner that the pier is safe to use.

They were told just after midday on Tuesday that buses had been arranged to allow foot passengers to get between Ardrossan and Gourock.

CalMac told users that six services had been cancelled. And an 11.05am sailing from Brodick would go to Gourock. The 12.30pm sailing to Arran from Ardrossan was diverted to Gourock.

Would-be passengers were told: "We are unable to use the Irish berth at Ardrossan due to current weather conditions caused by wind speeds higher than forecast. Services will use the Irish berth when weather conditions allow.

"While we await assurances from harbour owner Peel Ports that the Arran berth is safe to use, sailings will be diverted to Gourock."

Later CalMac said the 3.15pm from Brodick to Ardrossan would depart as planned, but it would dock in the Irish Berth instead of the Arran berth.

Finlay MacRae, head of operations for CalMac, said: “Due to a safety issue with the Arran berth at Ardrossan, we are currently unable to use it. The alternative Irish berth can be used when weather conditions allow and services will be diverted to alternative mainland ports when this is not possible.

“We have asked harbour owner Peel Ports to provide an assurance that the Arran berth is safe to use.

“Customers are being kept up to date about changes to their journeys and replacement buses are being arranged for foot passengers.”

Two long-awaited lifeline ferries to serve Scotland's island communities have been delayed by at least five years, while the costs are expected to rise by at least two-and-a-half times the contract price of £97m.

One of the ferries, MV Glenn Sannox - which is destined for the Arran-Ardrossan route was due to enter service in the summer of 2018.