Scots island fuel ‘smugglers’ risk ferry fire

The Cumbrae Ferry risks potential fire hazard with residents carrying fuel. Picture: Robert Perry

The Cumbrae Ferry risks potential fire hazard with residents carrying fuel. Picture: Robert Perry

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RESIDENTS of a Scottish island with no petrol station are risking a volatile incident by smuggling fuel, an official report reveals.

The island of Great Cumbrae lost its only petrol station seven years ago and some ferry foot passengers are reported to be hiding cans of fuel inside their shopping.

All it takes is a wet car deck, an exhaust to backfire, and boom.

Anonymous source

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and police have carried out spot checks in an attempt to clamp down on the practice, which is illegal and could cause a tragedy.

Frustrated residents of the island - which is just four miles long and has one 10-mile circular road - point out they have to pay £20 return to take a car to the mainland to buy fuel.

Many are angry that the local development company has refused to help build a replacement petrol station, preferring to back a second pharmacy for the island of just 1,300 residents.

The fuel smuggling is revealed in a report commissioned by North Ayrshire Council into the feasibility of building a petrol station.

The report by Optimal Economics gave the idea the green light, saying: “This would put an end to the illegal and dangerous transport of fuel in private vehicles on the ferry.

“The transport of fuel, other than in vehicle tanks or on fuel tankers, is contrary to the regulations for the transport of fuel on the ferry.

“It is believed that some informal transport of fuel in cans take place. With no fuel facility operating on the island, residents and visitors require to travel to the mainland to legally refuel their vehicles.”

A source, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that foot passengers were smuggling fuel on to the island.

“It is actually quite scary,” said the insider.

“Some are putting it into fuel cans in pull along shopping trolleys and taking it over. They just wheel it on and off the boat.

“All it takes is a wet car deck, an exhaust to backfire, and boom.”

Councillor Alex Gallagher said of the fuel smuggling: “It’s been going on for years. Fuel has been intercepted.”

But Cllr Gallagher said there had been no prosecutions he was aware of. He said authorities simply warn islanders “you’re not meant to come on here with that”.

As well as having to pay £20 for a return car trip to a petrol station, islanders have to wait up to 11 hours to make the 10-minute crossing.

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