Ardrossan harbour’s Irish berth - the reserve berth for the Arran ferry service - is to close permanently, owners Peel Ports revealed today.

They said the closure comes due to accelerated wear and tear caused by increased use of the auxiliary berth.

The Irish berth has been used by operator CalMac Ferries over the last 18 months to facilitate the Arran service, instead of the harbour’s primary Arran berth, due to a change in vessel specifications.

The MV Alfred has been in service while the regular – the vessel originally intended to operate the route – has been undergoing ongoing maintenance and engine repairs.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: MV Caledonian Isles

The MV Alfred catamaran, which is a different size and specification to the original vessel, can only be accommodated at the Irish berth.

Peel Ports said today that as a back-up for services, the Irish berth was never designed for such regular use, nor formally contracted to service the Arran route.

Following routine maintenance inspections, services were temporarily paused in mid-January to allow for dive inspections.

Read more: MSPs told new ferries might never sail from Ardrossan

These inspections have concluded that extended and regular use has caused accelerated wear and tear to the berth’s structure, making it unsafe for continued service. The harbour’s main Arran berth remains fully operational.

Jim McSporran, Port Director, Peel Ports Clydeport said: “The Irish berth is a temporary floating pontoon and acts as an auxiliary berth, intended for occasional use only.

"It is offered when available and when needed, such as when the harbour faces adverse weather like strong easterly winds that affect the use of the Arran berth. There is no contractual commitment for its use.

Read more: New Arran ferry is due to start sea trials later this month

“Initial indications suggested the MV Caledonian Isles would only be out of service for a temporary period, and the Alfred was introduced as a short-term relief vessel.

"However, the Caledonian has remained out of use, with little indication as to its future, meaning that the Irish berth has had to support the route for much longer than intended.

“We’re acutely aware that the closure of the Irish berth has already added to the frustration that’s long been felt by users of the ferry service, however safety must always be our priority.

"We would like to reassure the residents and businesses of Arran that the Arran berth is the primary berth for ferries into Ardrossan harbour, and that service will continue to be used as normal, subject to any extreme weather conditions.”

Plans to redevelop Ardrossan harbour have now been delayed for six years, with Transport Scotland and CalMac unable to progress the redevelopment which would accommodate the route’s new vessels – which were designed to be bigger than the harbour they use.

A business case review on the viability of the harbour upgrade, ordered by the Scottish Government, is currently expected to report outcomes in February.

Mr McSporran continued: “We are deeply concerned that the people served by this lifeline service are unable to plan for their future because of the lengthy delays that have affected the redevelopment to date.

"We have already provided around 80 per cent of the funds required to progress the wider project up to this point, and we will continue to work with the funding partners on the procurement of this project.

“We eagerly await the conclusion of the business case review, and we are hopeful the Scottish Government will commit permanently to Ardrossan as the destination for the Arran ferry.”