CLAIMS that Troon Harbour is more sheltered than Ardrossan came under serious threat this week.
The Isle of Arran vessel sought refuge in the South Ayrshire port - only for it to end up against the harbour wall.
The boat had to be towed into the harbour by a smaller boat.
Calmac said that the manoeuvre was a ‘textbook’ one and that no damage was caused to either the ferry or to the port wall.
But Ardrossan harbour owners Peel Ports insisted it proved that Troon is no better in adverse weather than Ardrossan, one of the main claims of the ‘Choose Troon’ campaign.
Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, said: “The fact that a tug was needed to get the MV Isle of Arran into Troon Harbour shows how unsuitable Troon is as a port to serve Arran. Ardrossan is the only sensible choice.”
Weather on Monday and Tuesday caused many of the ferries between Ardrossan and Brodick to be cancelled and, as the Caledonian Isles is currently away for its yearly service, lifeline journeys are being undertaken by the MV Hebridean Isles.
Due to high winds, the vessel was set to dock in Brodick overnight with the MV Isle of Arran making its way to Troon because Calmac felt that the forecast was so bad it could be problematic to leave in Ardrossan overnight.
Doug Coleman, project director for Peel Ports said: “Any incident where a passenger ferry comes into contact with a harbour wall is extremely concerning and routinely prompts an investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Board.
“The fact that high winds appear to have forced The Isle of Arran against the entrance of Troon Harbour and the skipper had to call a tug to assist her to get off the harbour wall and onto the berth fatally undermines ABP’s central claim that Troon somehow provides a more protected berth than Ardrossan.
“That is manifestly not the case, as the pictures of The Isle of Arran having to be unceremoniously shoved off the harbour mouth at Troon on Monday clearly show.
“The management at ABP must have had their heads in their hands when the ferry lodged against the sea-wall at Troon – it completely destroys the central plank of their argument and shows that claims Troon is more sheltered are simply untrue.
“Despite the forecast for strong westerly winds, we could easily have accommodated The Isle of Arran at Ardrossan.
“In fact, given that The Hebridean Isles was staying overnight at Brodick, there were two free berths at Ardrossan which could have taken the Isle of Arran safely and without any fuss, so it was a rather curious decision to berth in Troon in the first place.
“We’ve said all along that ABP’s claims of calmer berths at Troon are simply not backed up by the facts and Monday’s undignified manoeuvre blows those claims out of the water.”
But Stuart Cresswell, Port Manager for the Port of Troon, disputed the claims.
He said: “Services between Arran and Ardrossan were severely disrupted and cancelled again on Monday and Tuesday due to the extreme weather conditions and, as often happens in these circumstances, the MV Isle of Arran was moved from Ardrossan for safe overnight berthing at Troon.
“Berthing at Troon was achieved in extremely challenging conditions with wind speeds recorded during the actual berthing at approaching 50 knots (Force 10 gale).
“The exercise is further evidence of how Troon’s all weather accessibility has the potential to vastly improve the service reliability for the people of Arran.”
A CalMac spokesman said: “Due to bad weather, MV Isle of Arran opted to berth in Troon as ‘safe haven’ as Brodick was unavailable due to the MV Hebridean Isles berthing there. Use of Troon in this way is common practice when Ardrossan and Brodick are unavailable.
“When the vessel arrived it experienced strong winds of up to 45 knots which was significantly worse than forecast and the vessel used the roundhead and fenders to hold position while waiting for a tug to assist her to berth.
“This is a textbook manoeuvre frequently used in the maritime industry in those conditions. Neither the ship or port was damaged.”