ISLANDERS and tourists face a winter of uncertainty as a barrage of issues hit the Ardrossan to Brodick route.

As the busiest ferry route in Scotland it is one of the most sought after in the country and a hive of activity throughout the whole year.

But port repairs, ramp issues and weather could cause major headaches as the busy Christmas season approaches.

Calmac admitted last week on Twitter that easterly winds could be ‘problematic’ without use of the traditional Irish berth, which is currently out of action as repair work is carried out.

Sources told the Herald that repairs should have been completed and that the Irish berth was fit for use but owners Peel Ports disputed this and said they are working to get it back in operation soon.

A spokesperson for Peel Ports said: “The secondary berth at Ardrossan, known as the Irish berth, is currently out of service due to ongoing improvement works. While the work has been ongoing, the primary Arran berth has remained operational, although there has been occasional disruption to services due to adverse weather conditions.

“The works are now nearing completion and we will issue a further update when the Irish berth is back in service. In the meantime the Arran berth remains operational and it is anticipated that, subject to weather conditions, the level of disruption will be limited to a small number of Saturday evening services.

“The current works will ensure that when the upgrade of the Arran berth commences there is adequate alternative provision at Ardrossan. The current works do not have any impact on the planned upgrade of the Arran berth.”

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “The Irish Berth is critical to the smooth operation of the ferry and allowing it to dock in adverse conditions.

“As we proceed next year to build the new ferry terminal, it is imperative that any and all works required to ensure that Ardrossan continues to serve Brodick using the Irish Berth whilst such works are ongoing are undertaken as soon as possible.”

Winter weather always plays its part in cancellations but 2018 could be made worse by ongoing issues with the ramp at the Brodick terminal meaning that the ferry cannot dock overnight in Brodick.

A spokesperson from CMAL said: “We can confirm that, following damage to the passenger access system (PAS) at Brodick in early November, we have prohibited use of the system for overnight berthing.

“This restriction will remain in place until repairs have been carried out, which we anticipate will be within the next week. We are currently investigating how the PAS was damaged and an incident report will be completed. The PAS is safe for passengers embarking and disembarking ferry services.”

Calmac also confirmed that there would be a ‘certain level of disruption’ as work is carried out and a spokesman for CalMac said: “The secondary berth at Ardrossan, known as the Irish berth, is currently out of service due to on going rectification works being carried out by owner Peel Ports. While this work is being completed, subject to certain weather conditions, there may be a certain level of disruption.

“Since the berth became unavailable for use in August, there has been no incidences of disruption due to the berth’s unavailability.”

‘Peel Ports are currently working to resolve the issues with the berth and once these have been addressed to CalMac’s satisfaction the berth will be placed back into operational use.

“We are currently working with Brodick port owners CMAL to address the ramp issue.”

West Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said he plans on raising the issue in the Scottish Parliament and he told the Herald: ““These reports raise some serious concerns as it appears that without the use of the Irish Berth, the Ardrossan ferry can only dock under certain weather conditions, which massively impacts the reliability of the service.

“The Ardrossan-Brodick route is a lifeline route for people to travel, work and access public services. Three days of speculative cancellations because the ferry can no longer dock in harsh weather just isn’t acceptable; it disrupts lives and impacts local businesses.

“The Scottish Government must make clear why neither vessels cannot dock in harsh weather without the Irish Berth, why it is currently closed and what long-term contingency plans are in place if the berth is out of operation for long periods of time.

“I will be raising this matter in the Scottish Parliament at the next opportunity.”