Mull and Iona Ferry Committee Meeting
Wednesday 9th January
7.30pm Isle of Mull Hotel
Present: Elizabeth Ferguson, Finlay MacDonald, Joe Reade, Ben Wilson, James Knight, Neal Goldsmith, Mary-Jean Devon, Susan Campbell, Andrena Duffin, Keith Robbie, David Galbraith , Jim Corbett, Claire Simonetta, John MacDonald, Douglas Wilson , Andy Knight, Moray Finch, Bill McClymont (Convenor, Mull Community Council)
Welcome and Apologies : Iain Erskine, Mairi Davidson, Chris James and Finlay MacRae
Mull Community Council Response to Craignure STAG (Billy McClymont)
BMC questioned the brief for the STAG appraisal. He expressed the Mull Community Council’s commitment to retaining the site. Ideally, a hybrid of the proposed options should be considered for the re-development of the pier. Phase 1 could potentially be the installation of a Roundhead on the existing site. FMD commented on the £18million required for the proposed Dolphin, which doesn’t extend the life of the current pier, suggesting that CALMAC and Argyll and Bute Council should look at a solution together, including the design (currently designed to berth the Isle of Lewis overnight) in search of a cheaper more practical solution.
BMC expressed concern about how large ferries impact upon small community life and the inability of the infrastructure to cope. The Mull Community Council reported on worries about the increased volume of traffic. JR’s view was that the smallest practical ferry would be 60-70 car spaces, even if there were three on the route, judging from the trend of the carrying figures i.e. similar to the IOM in terms of car carrying capacity, though not necessarily with the same passenger capacity. There is a desire to avoid even larger vessels.
BW remarked that currently disruption of the service through weather and the condition of the pier, are the main issues, with the need for the fendering to be repaired as the next step. Though caution should be exercised looking ahead.
BW suggested that the 2 committees should meet together. MJD agreed that although both have different remits and aims the 2 committees should be talking to each other, as the feelings of the community are a big part of the way forward. Both committees exist for the common purpose of achieving advantage for the entire community.
NG stated that the MIFC’s remit is anything to do with boats, service and timetabling issues and that, looking forward, it can’t be seen to support one option. Consultation with the community is essential.
JC remarked that the new pier is a long way in the future and that efforts should be concentrated on an interim solution and the existing pier.
Discussion ensued about there being no possibility of shutting down the pier to complete work as continuity of service must be maintained, and the other side of the current pier being unable to be used, as this would cause damage. If instead, a pier was to be located just slightly South of its current location boats could land on its South side until the current pier is demolished. There were concerns expressed that the Council will build what they want and perhaps giving some consideration to what the community thinks. Also that asking for a Dolphin or a Roundhead, may be pushing for something unachievable. There seemed to be some consensus on the fact that the pier would have to be located to the South but closer to the current pier, if CALMAC would be happy to operate from that location.
BW and JR commented that the committee need to focus on credible, sensible interim measures. NG suggested a joint task force from the FC and MCC to present one voice about interim solutions and offered the hotel as a venue for future meetings.
JK commented that the objective of the proposed plans appeared to be accommodating the Isle of Lewis, which may suit CALMAC and TS. However any change in Government makes the future an “unknown” and it is the present that has to be fixed.
JC said that the Mull Community Council’s wishes to have a new pier as close as possible would be further discussed by the A&BC Harbour board which have to decide upon any option or hybrid option. MJD outlined the complex process of presenting a business case resulting in producing a solution, or range of solutions. JR to further discuss this with her. In response to a question about whether it was necessary to follow STAG or just ask for a funding decision from the Council MJD felt that the latter was
the way forward with CMAL and TS involvement. There was discussion about the possibility of asking the Council for some funding to be used in the interim and factored into the overall funding for the new pier.
BMC acknowledged the need to work together. There is also a Craignure Residents group, formed to directly report impact on the whole village. It was felt that they should be invited to join the FC and MCC joint group and that the people living outside Craignure should also have their views heard.
There was brief discussion about any merits of looking outside Craignure, for example Duart Bay. BMC expressed Mull Community Council’s wishes to retain the pier but to restrict development and keep things as near as possible to how they are now.
Marshalling difficulties were mentioned, with acknowledgement that the CALMAC office should be on the other side of the road. BMC indicated that reduced numbers of coaches visiting the island might enable use of the outside bus lane (nearest the road) to be used for commercial vehicles, which would ease congestion. NG said CALMAC figures showed a 15% rise in coaches.
On reviewing the draft minutes, BMC requested the following changes/additions. The committee decided rather than try to re-write the minute that these changes be inserted here verbatim:
‘Only one thing reference the re siting to the south. The community councils position is re siting anywhere within the current curtilage.
Regarding the bus lanes I felt there were less buses using the bus lanes. NG mentioned more buses coming to the island. I was referring to all buses using the bus lanes not just incoming buses. It was highlighted during the discussion that the outside lane could be used as the un booked lane as well as for commercials.’
Calmac Community Board Update – NG
NG is responsible for Mull Iona Lismore and Kerrera (concentrating on VRDP and CHFS contracts). The Board meet 4 times a year and has additional sub-groups. Of immediate concern is the introduction of cancellation charges eg. if booked on the 6pm ferry and get back in time to catch the 4pm then a £10 charge is made for the cancellation of the 6pm booking. This came into force on 1st January 2019. The reasoning behind the scheme is to prevent multiple bookings. One angle being tackled is illegality of making money from penalty payments. NG feels this is
unworkable and will be quashed. KR questioned whether if Calmac cancel the service a charge would be made when rebooking. He added that commercial businesses, which have been able block book and cancel at time of check in, now have to give 24 hour notice of cancellation. Attempt to standardise penalty system.
Vessel deployment is currently under discussion with 8 new vessels each 102 metres, which all ports could accommodate, offering versatility and less limitations. AK pointed out this was contrary to previous discussion with TS where smaller boats were under consideration. The main worry about frequency and size being the number of cars arriving at one time. NG has also recently met with the Minister of Interior in Denmark, where RET has been introduced off season for locals – will update further on this at a later date. RET will remain problematic at certain times of the year irrespective of the size of boat and local police have expressed concern about traffic.
Farming Update (CS)
CS questioned whether any opportunity exists for the introduction of RET for farm supply vehicles and transportation of animal feeds. JC felt this would be dependent upon what the consequences would mean – evaluating any benefits against loss of current concessions. Also discussed were problems encountered making bookings for farm vehicles by phone as there is no facility to book online at present. NG in liaison with EF and CS to follow up.
Sub Group Update (EF/JR/BW)
TS meeting went well the new TS representative was helpful and plans for incremental change were positive. Further news on this would be reported once the meeting planned with Paul Wheelhouse (Transport Minister) had occurred.
Iona Update (FM)
No update on piers at present.
STAG query from MCC (AD)
AD expressed the Mull Community Council view that an island impact assessment of infrastructure should be included in the STAG brief, addressing the needs of the port and wider community. JR commented that STAG also failed to include reference to vessel deployment plan.
Weather Station, Bank Account, Website (JR)
The weather station is currently awaiting fitting on the gantry above the link span to enable the live feed on the website.
MIFC now has an account number and the bank account will be open soon.
JR is keen to communicate everything openly and asked that members instruct him regarding website wording (not yet live). The website has Blog posts at the front and Facebook/ Blogpost are linked. When launched JR suggested a survey to assess priorities for the service which may be useful to be able to represent islander’s view..
JR questioned the way forward. MJD expressed the need to lobby now as STAG is a long process. Presenting a letter to progress things forward. MJD to help present views. MJD expressed the need for the FC and MCC to endorse each other’s views and gather the opinions of the community – positive effect of people power. There was further discussion about making concerns high profile, the main aim being to get Argyll and Bute Council, TS etc. to commit to immediate work. JR to take suggestions to MCC. MJD to help with planning and press releases.
14th November 2018
7pm Isle of Mull Hotel
Welcome and apologies
Present – Elizabeth Ferguson, Ben Wilson, James Knight, Joe Reade, Andrena Duffin, Susan Campbell, Keith Robbie, David Galbraith, John MacDonald, Moray Finch, Iain Erskine, Finlay MacRae (CALMAC). Apologies from Finlay MacDonald, Jim Corbett, Claire Simonetta, Douglas Wilson, Neal Goldsmith, Andy Knight, Mairi Davidson, Mary-Jean Devon, Chris James.
Winter Timetable Update
24th September SKYPE session with Mike Russell MSP and EF, JR, AK, DW, BW. MR expressed support for an early/ late boat.
8th November Transport Scotland (TS) chaired meeting with sub-group and Calmac present, Argyll and Bute Council declined to send a representative. An open, frank meeting, discussing issues around the early/late boat Calmac’s ability to run the Summer Timetable with respect to VRDP and berthing issues and problems with pier. Transport Scotland is an advocate of the early/late boat. TS to hold a second meeting and insist that Argyll and Bute Council are present. EF and other sub-group members are to meet with Mike Russell MSP and Minister, Paul Wheelhouse in the New Year.
Coverage in local and national media, although certain incorrect statements made by Calmac and Transport Scotland have been challenged.
JK produced a drawing of the Pentalena, discussing its capability, lower fuel, crew and maintenance costs and availability from January. The boat is known to Transport Scotland and Calmac, is proven as a capable, single entry, basic vessel which may require some modification if used on Craignure-Oban route.
STAG discussion and MIFC reply to agree
MIFC have been asked to provide a written response following the STAG report.
EF, KR and MF (MICT) made a declaration of interest.
Interim options were discussed. The Council has stated that it will not fund interim measures. A&BC have marine engineer reports which state pier is at the end of its design life, with degradation commensurate with its age and a life expectancy of another 9/10 years. JR felt it was important to question some of the STAG report eg. reasons for dredging for boats not scheduled for the route. The size of boat should be for later consideration, though concerns were expressed regarding failure to meet the VRDP and that Mull is being left behind relative to other islands. There was further discussion regarding usage, funding to meet this and lack of spending on the pier over the last 15 years. IE discussed issues being experienced with the current linkspan built in 1975. JR and BW felt that cheaper interim solutions should be possible eg. no overnight berth, and that cheaper avenues should be explored to maintain the lifeline service.
ACTION: JR and BW to draft a response to the interim elements of the STAG.
The Committee viewed options for the new pier:
2a) South of existing pier 2b) Ministers Point 3a) North of the existing pier 3b) North of the existing pier (nested)
Discussion of problems/merits of each option:
FM and IE from Calmac provided feedback based on local operator knowledge and skipper feedback.
FM and IE advised finger pier would give greater reliability and service in Craignure and that nested berths were not as flexible for operations.
FM East winds are problematic and cause disruption
IE Ministers Point is too exposed and therefore the least favoured option.
FM Proximity of North pier and the old pier may be problematic in terms of depth.
FM South side finger pier roughly opposite the Craignure Inn would be the most sheltered option as the cliff provided better shelter from winds and the tidal flow was thought to be more favourable. The old pier could be retained without interference.
A number of committee members expressed concern regarding the scale of the entire development, too large for the village. All agreed urgent action required for an interim solution was a priority.
The committee’s favoured options in order were:
1) South side of the existing pier
2) North side of the existing pier
The nested berths and Ministers Point options were least favoured.
ACTION: EF to draft response for long term options for STAG
Calmac update (FM Calmac)
Regarding timetabling/vessel issues – it is likely the current model will operate for the next few seasons, any changes are subject to vessel suitability. Calmac would honour extra sailings required for early/late boat if instructed by TS, using the Coruisk and the IOM though extra sailings have crewing implications. Consideration was given to the use of smaller boats for the extra sailings eg. outside Lismore hours. Again this has crew implications, a larger boat would negate the need to upsize later.
IE and FM both reported that the fendering on the current pier is in poor state of repair. Despite maintenance being requested 2 years ago, the fendering , a design no longer in use, has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where there is potential for vessel damage.
Transporting Animals (CS)
Carried forward to the next meeting for CS.
Iona Update including contingency arrangements (FM)
Carried forward to the next meeting.
Craignure Pier – feasibility study for community buy out, support sought (JR)
The Mull Community Council has yet to decide whether to support. MICT would support investigation of community ownership. There was broad agreement though concerns were expressed regarding when the new pier is to be built, whether the Council can be forced to sell, how marshalling etc. would be managed, whether this might muddy the waters with STAG and whether the committee should focus on other projects. A vote was taken to assess support for investigation of the feasibility of further exploring community ownership – the majority were in favour but the vote was not unanimous.
Weather Station and Bank Account (JR)
A bank account will be set up shortly.
ACTION: JR and EF to progress
Thanks to the businesses that bought the weather station and MICT for hosting the data statistics. The data will be of importance as it shows conditions in real time on line. It can be used to look at cancellations and investigate concerns about the operation of the ferry. Calmac are happy with the real time access this provides. A risk assessment to be carried out prior to installation.
Calmac Community Board update (NG)
Carried forward to the next meeting for NG
Next Meeting Wednesday 9th January 2019.