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Caithness News Bulletins March 2003

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Scrabster Pier Index      

NorthLink has welcomed the Scottish Executive initiative and cash injection, announced today by the deputy minister for enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, Lewis Macdonald MSP, which will facilitate use of MV Hamnavoe on the Pentland Firth route.

Use of the existing pier at Scrabster - as a temporary measure until the new structure being constructed to accommodate the purpose-built vessel is ready - means that MV Hamnavoe, which has been berthed at Leith for the past five months, can begin operating on the route by the end of April.

NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said: "It has been a source of great frustration to us that Hamnavoe has not been able to operate on the route for which she was designed because of difficulties outwith our control.  We are delighted that the Scottish Executive has agreed to provide the funds which allows the existing pier to accommodate the vessel."

The Caledonian MacBrayne vessel MV Hebridean Isles has been used as a stop-gap measure on the route while the Scrabster Harbour Trust attempted to complete work on the new pier which can accommodate MV Hamnavoe.  The new structure should have been ready in time for commencement of service last October. Consideration had previously been given to modifying the existing pier but had been rejected because it would not have been possible to offer an acceptably reliable service during typical autumn and winter winds.

However, following damage caused to the new structure during January gales, the latest estimate from the Harbour Trust indicates that the new pier at Scrabster will not be ready until late summer and the concept of utilising the modified old pier as the weather improves became a viable option.

Work on the old pier, which will encompass the construction of a linkspan interface platform that will accommodate vehicular movement to and from Hamnavoe, is expected to cost in the region of 300,000.

Davidson added: "We have been continuously disappointed by progress on the new pier which should have been ready in time for us to bring MV Hamnavoe into service some six months ago. I would like also to thank our joint venture partner CalMac for providing MV Hebridean Isles. I know that this was done at no little inconvenience to their own network operations and I thank them for that.

 "The decision to carry out modifications to the existing pier is one which we very much welcome. It is not a complete answer to the difficulties which we have been experiencing at Scrabster because, even with the linkspan modification to the old pier - which was originally built some 30 years ago - the weather will play a role in our ability to operate Hamnavoe in and out of the harbour.

"However, scrutiny of historical meteorological records indicates that the worst of the storms should be over by Easter and we are reasonably confident that, throughout spring and summer, we should be able to offer our Pentland Firth route customers a viable service on a vessel constructed specifically for the route and which gained rave reviews from islanders during the naming ceremony in Stromness all these months ago," said Davidson.

In advance of work at Scrabster being completed MV Hamnavoe will be leaving her Leith berth in order to take part in trials around the Pentland Firth and Orkney Isles.