Upgrade delays new £42m Stornoway ferry launch

A ferry docked at Stornoway Harbour. Picture: Allan Milligan/TSPL
A ferry docked at Stornoway Harbour. Picture: Allan Milligan/TSPL
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A NEW £42 million ferry for Stornoway will not enter service until after the New Year because of delays on upgrading a pier to accommodate the ship.

The Loch Seaforth has been ready for weeks, but the 7,800-ton vessel and her crew have to wait until the disrupted work is finished.

The recent wave of bad weather has impeded progress at Stornoway harbour.

And following meetings with consultants, contractors and ferry operator Caledonian Macbrayne, Stornoway Port Authority has confirmed that the infrastructure works which were expected to be completed some weeks ago will not now be finished until into the new year.

The works remain largely weather-dependent and so no completion date has yet been guaranteed.

The contractors have been working 24 hours a day, six days a week in an effort to complete the project before the festive break.

But a combination of storms, heavy sea swells, high winds and unforeseen challenges with fixing fender panels to the roundhead on Pier 3 have further delayed works.

Construction Project Manager, Graham Hopper of contractors BAM Nuttall, said: “We realise that the construction works have been going on for much longer than originally anticipated, due to various circumstances and we thank everyone for their continued patience while we progress the works to conclusion as quickly as possible.”

And Murdo Murray, vice-chair of the Port Authority, added: “The timescale for this project was always very tight and as this is the largest capital project we have ever undertaken it’s important that the time is taken to get the quality product that the travelling public expect”.

Cranes had to stop operating in windy conditions at the fendering installation and strengthening upgrades at the ferry pier.

Since leaving her German builders two months ago, the the ship has been laid up on the Clyde awaiting the completion of construction work.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) is to lease the vessel to the ferry operator CalMac.

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The Loch Seaforth must carry out berthing and harbour trials at the redeveloped pier at Stornoway before carrying her first passengers.

CalMac has selected three captains to work a rota on the ship.

They have undertaken ship simulator training – based on the Loch Seaforth’s capabilities – in Norway.

The Loch Seaforth, which can carry up to 700 passengers and 143 cars, was built to replace the ferries, the Isle of Lewis and the Clipper Ranger, for the busy Stornoway to Ullapool run.

She is expected to cut 15 minutes off the present two hours and 45 minute voyage to Ullapool.

Her hull has been shaped to better handle Minch waves while the machinery spaces should emit less noise.

Inside, the passenger accommodation block has been designed by interior consultants, Steen Friis of Denmark.

The main passenger area is the central arcade with coffee bar, children’s area and games machines. High bar stools allow travellers a good view through the side portholes.

The colour scheme of blues, greens, browns and off-white is based on the hues of the natural environment of the Hebrides.

Three back-up engines aim to keep the ship going on her regular timetable and speed even if one of her two main engines breaks down.

Meanwhile, Stornoway Port Authority has announced the award of a contract for the project management of a new Ice Plant in the harbour to local company Maciver Consultancy Services Ltd.

Director of Maciver Consultancy Services Ltd, Malcolm Maciver, an experienced professional project manager and civil engineer will be the principal manager for the project.

Mr Murray said: “The project comes about as a result of the irretrievable breakdown of the former ice plant owned and operated by Stornoway Fisherman’s Co-operative.

“As a result of stakeholder requests, the Port Authority has assisted with the provision of ice since that breakdown by installing a small ice machine on what was supposed to be a short-term temporary basis. As it became clear that the Fisherman’s Co-operative were unable to reinstate an ice facility the Port Authority agreed to take on ice provision in the port.

“Following an award of funding from the European Fisheries Fund the Port Authority tendered for a Project Manager for the project.

“The procurement process for the new plant will start in the new year. It is understood that the old ice plant will be decommissioned by Stornoway Fisherman’s Co-operative and the new plant will be sited in the same area as the former ice plant.”

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