Eco-friendly West Coast tie-up taking timber transit off roads and onto sea

A £2.6 million deal has been agreed to move thousands of tonnes of timber by sea instead of by road in Scotland, in a move expected to boost the industry’s green credentials and reducing congestion on a key rural road.

Scottish Forestry has signed a three-year deal with Associated British Ports (ABP) for the TimberLink service to move the commodity from Argyll using ports at Ardrishaig, Campbeltown and Sandbank to ABP’s Troon and Ayr harbours, to be forwarded to wood-processing plants in Troon, Auchinleck, Girvan and Irvine.

The two parties say that over the next three years, around 225,000 tonnes of timber will be shipped this way instead of using lorries, which should save around 2.2 million lorry miles, and eliminate nearly 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

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The move is also predicted to result in 9,750 fewer lorry trips via the A82 trunk road, which passes the Rest & Be Thankful and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park area.

Stuart Cresswell, ABP’s port manager of Ayr and Troon, said: “The TimberLink operation out of the ports of Ayr and Troon is a real success story and I am delighted that this forward-thinking service will continue. The sea route not only reduces lorry traffic on rural roads, but also uses less fuel and produces fewer greenhouse gases.

“This project has created many growth opportunities for local businesses, both in Argyll and Ayrshire, and I feel confident that they will only strengthen and multiply with this continued operation.”

ABP says it has operated the service on behalf of Scottish Forestry since 2000, with funding made through the Strategic Timber Transport Fund, which is run by Scottish Forestry and jointly financed by Transport Scotland.

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The first shipment of timber by sea from Troon harbour. Picture: contributed.

Scottish Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said Scotland’s forestry sector boosts the economy by more than £1 billion a year and supports around 25,000 jobs.

“We want to help grow this prosperity ensuring that we have a sustainable timber transport resource to help achieve this. Where practical, I am keen to see a modal shift to coastal shipping and away from using rural roads, helping to decarbonise the forestry sector,” she added.

"I’m also pleased that this project substantially reduces the number of timber lorries having to use the A82, which is a key route used by rural communities.”

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