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New West Coast Ferry Terminals by Colin Howell, Principal Engineer of Highland Council's Consultancy Unit - Aberdeen meeting of 4 February 2002

This was a well attended joint meeting hosted by AACE (Aberdeen Association of Civil Engineers) held on Monday 4 February 2002.

Colin Howell outlined the projects which are currently being commissioned or planned:

1. Small Isles and Inverie Ferry Scheme
2. Uig Pier Improvement
3. Raasay Ferry Terminal

He then spoke in detail regarding the Small Isles Scheme (covering Muck, Rum, Eigg and Canna) which is budgeted at approximately £30 million for an island population of less than 200 residents. The Scottish Executive has committed funding to the project in conjunction with the introduction by Cal Mac in November 2001 of a new ro-ro ferry, "The Loch Nevis". Prior to the introduction of the new ferry the Small Isles were served by a small passenger ferryboat, which required passengers and freight to be transferred onto flit boats. These flit boats will continue to be required until the new ferry terminals are completed.

The new ro-ro ferry is significantly larger than the previous vessel, because of revised regulations regarding the height of the car deck above the waterline. The size of the vessel dictates the specification of each terminal, including the width of the approach channel and the depth of water required.

The Council tendered the work on a "design and build" basis. As well as taking on board CalMac's requirements, the Council gave consideration to other factors such as local needs (e.g. facilities for small boats), environmental factors and low maintenance costs. The choice of location for each facility has been determined by taking into account a number of factors, including the wave climate, the location of island facilities and old piers, and consultation with island residents and owners, including Scottish National Heritage (Rum) and National Trust Scotland (Canna).

The Construction Centre Group is nearing completion of the terminals on Rum and Muck, mainly using prefabricated concrete sections. Work on Eigg is scheduled to start in March. Colin Howell highlighted a number of difficulties that have been faced when carrying out the work to date. For example, the islands (particularly Rum) have several environmental designations and it was essential that all designs for terminals and approach roads have a low environmental impact. Also, the existence of rare species of flowers and marine habitat, and the discovery of archaeological sites (including a unique shipwreck), have all added to the challenges of this project.

This meeting was attended by a large number of professionals from a range of different engineering and transportation backgrounds, all of whom enjoyed Colin Howell's interesting presentation.

Report by Marion Mackay .


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