The owners of the Wemyss Bay ferry terminal have published a list of the comments made, questions asked and answers given at two recent public meetings held following the decision to delay major repairs at the pier until the autumn of this year.
Officials from Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) attended a special public meeting of Bute Community Council in Rothesay on Thursday, February 26, two days after a meeting of their own in Inverkip aimed at businesses and residents in Wemyss Bay.
CalMac Ferries Ltd was also represented at both events.
The comments made at the latest Inverkip and Rothesay meetings were as follows.
Q. It was commented that starting the work in the autumn may lead to more weather related delays. Could dredging be done nightshift to help the programme?
A. We have already spoken to the local authorities about working nightshifts and they have indicated that they would not routinely approve of nightshift working. The dredging itself is not on the project “critical path” so doing it during nightshift would not in fact lead to any gain.
Q. Will use be made of the pier for storage of construction materials?
A. Some materials will be stored on the pier. Others in the marshalling area which will be made available to the contractor during the works.
Q. What colour will the pier fenders be ? Could they be brown for example to blend in with the surrounding environment?
A. The fenders panels will be a dark grey colour generally but the upper section will be yellow. This is designed to make them easier for vessel masters to see in poor visibility.
Q. Will the new fenders help make the pier more “weather proof”?
A. It is difficult to say for sure - ultimately it is up to the masters whether the vessel can sail or berth. The masters may however be more likely to berth if they know that the new fendering system is a lot more robust than the existing fendering.
Q. Will the fenders be able to take future vessels? (it was noted that the current fenders were not designed to accommodate the current vessels)
The fenders have been designed to accommodate a range of vessels including much larger vessels than the Argyle and Bute. This therefore should “future proof” the fenders.
Q. Will the walkway be painted using the original colours? Have discussions taken place with Network Rail to make sure that the colours will match the railway station colours?
A. The walkway will be painted with the original colours. CMAL has had discussions with Network Rail in order to “co-ordinate” paint specifications and the specification has been submitted to Historic Scotland for approval. The paint colours therefore should match between the station and walkway.
Q. Would CMAL consider opening up the north side of the pier for a passenger only service?
A. CMAL has considered this before. It was not deemed feasible to use the other side of the pier for a number of reasons including the shallow water depth, the “shape” of the pier itself, the lack of pier fendering, lack of mooring bollards and unavailability of passenger access facilities.
Q. Given that the project has now been delayed, what is the likelihood of something happing that would mean that the pier became inoperable?
A. We are aware of the risk that postponing the project may create. With this in mind, we have taken steps to increase the inspection frequency of the linkspan and fendering. Our consultant has already carried out a further inspection of the linkspan and linkspan ropes and is confident that their condition is such that they will remain serviceable until the start of the project. The next inspection of the fendering is also due very soon. Both linkspan and fendering will be inspected regularly until the works commence and any immediate repairs needed carried out.
Q. Are the new fenders being manufactured in China? Were they the cheapest?
A. Yes, the fenders are being manufactured in China. CMAL is required to comply with public sector procurement rules which means that over a certain value, tenders have to be openly advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland site. This means that any company can tender for the works. CMAL sets tender criteria based on a combination of price and quality and assesses tender returns against these criteria. This means that the lowest value tenders will not always win contracts (and often don’t).
Q. Communication regarding the project is not clear - can we not have a single point of contact for all questions relating to the project provision, like happens on other projects such as roadworks? Can we have a direct phone number to call rather than using social media or websites?
A. The way that responsibilities are split means that CMAL is responsible for the delivery of the infrastructure work and Calmac is responsible for service provision. Communication is planned on this basis. Anyone is welcome to call CMAL’s office at any time and we would be happy to discuss the project with them. (Tel 01475 749920.)
Q. Why are we spending money on a pier that is not fit for purpose? CMAL stated at the last meeting that the work would not improve operations at the pier. Ferries currently have difficulty berthing at Wemyss Bay - the works will not improve this.
A. The work at Wemyss Bay is not an enhancement scheme - it is major maintenance work. The work will make the pier more robust and the dredging should help in lower tidal conditions. The funds are not available to provide a new or enhanced facility.
Q. When will the works at Gourock be finished ? This should have been finished by now.
A. The work at Gourock is behind programme due to time lost in December and January as a result of poor weather. However, all piles have now been driven and the boat steps/platforms are now in. The works, including the landside improvement works, are nearing completion.
Q. The provision of a more robust fender system was welcomed. However, a point was raised regarding the proximity of the passenger access system (PAS) to the berthing line and the potential for vessel contact with the PAS in poorer weather/sea conditions.
A. CMAL noted that this concern had never been raised in the past by any of the vessel masters. CMAL will, however, look in to this.
Q. Why was the design not fully completed before the project was tendered?
A. The design was largely completed before tendering. It is not unusual for a job the project was tendered to be tendered before all design details are one hundred per cent completed. The fender design is suitable for the range of design conditions set out.
However, CMAL wanted checks to be carried out on ‘abnormal’ berthing conditions to check the behaviour of the fenders under such conditions. These checks highlighted potential problems under very high tide conditions and ‘heavy’ berthing.
When the design issues were highlighted, potential solutions were quickly identified. However, the impact on manufacture and delivery time of the fenders meant that starting as planned would have led to significant risk of project over-run into the peak summer months.
Q. Has improvement of access for disabled or infirm passengers been considered as part of the walkway works at Wemyss Bay? At present, getting from the pier to the railway station is very difficult without assistance.
A. The works to be building are aimed at restoring the walkway to its former condition so won’t in itself improve access. The current PAS and lift will also remain in use. However, Transport Scotland has provided some funding for general access improvement across the network. The funding is limited so CMAL has commissioned a study in order to prioritise those locations where improved access is most required and will provide the greatest benefit.
Q. Has the subcontractor used by CMAL been subject to penalty clauses for the delay to the project?
A. This is commercially confidential. CMAL cannot make comment on its dealings with its subcontractors as this may compromise its position in these dealings.
Q. Can a breakwater be constructed at Colintraive-Rhubodach? It is essential for the dairy trade on the island that this ferry runs without disruption. This is not the case with the current vessel but a breakwater would help keep the service running.
A. The scope of the project does not include construction of a breakwater. It was stated that the vessel has difficulty manoeuvring in windy conditions. A breakwater would not improve this situation.
Q. The work at Wemyss Bay is being done at the wrong side of the pier. The north side of the pier is the right place to do the work.
A. This is simply not feasible given the current layout of the port. The port would effectively have to be remodelled and reconstructed to enable this to happen.
Q. How can you manage working into the winter months when you said before that this was the worst time to do the works?
A. Working in September and October will give us a chance of some good weather, but we know that the risk of weather related delays will be greater than if we had started the works as planned in March. We are currently assessing the feasibility of carrying out more works from the pier which will lessen the amount of work from floating plant. This would help mitigate the impact of poorer weather.
Q. Can you work 24 hours a day?
A. No, the position of the local authorities in this regard will not change.
Q. What is the design life of the pier?
A. The new fendering system has a design life of 50 years. The majority of the existing pier was constructed in the 1980s and is generally in good condition. We would expect the pier to last for approximately up to another 30 years, although this is a very rough estimate.
Q. You mentioned Colintraive-Rhubodach in the presentation. Can you tell us what the plan is for this location?
A. New slipways and improved marshalling for Colintraive-Rhubodach had been planned to start in mid-2015 when the original Wemyss Bay programme was completed. However, we will be deferring this project till 2016 till after Wemyss Bay has been completed. Even if we started the Colintraive-Rhubodach project in the near future, it would not be completed before the revised Wemyss Bay start date and we don’t want works taking place on both routes at the same time.
Q. It is noted that no changes will be made to the PAS during the works. Will the new fenders help avoid the risk of vessels coming into contact with the PAS?
A. No - the new fendering will be in the same position as the existing fendering so the vessels will berth at the same place. This is because of the very tight space available to ensure that the vessels continue to fit the linkspan.
Q. What is the duration of the revised programme?
A. We have gone back to the tenderers and asked them to review their programmes. We are awaiting the tender returns which will inform us of thelikely programme duration. We do anticipate that the programme will be longer due to likely weather related delays. However, we are reviewing options for doing more work from the pier to try to mitigate the impact of weather.
A point was made that the planned closure was a missed opportunity for enhancement to the pier.
Q. Will the new fenders be capable of being repaired without having to wait a long time for parts to come from China?
A. Spare fenders will be provided when the fenders are delivered so they can be changed quickly if damaged.
Q. Will fenders be able to be repaired by local companies so we don’t have to wait?
A. General repairs to the steelwork will be within the capability of local companies so there’s no reason why repairs cannot be effected relatively quickly
Q. Can local companies not be used similarly for lifts and vessels to reduce the time taken to carry out repairs?
A. Local companies are currently used for such repairs.