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Visit to Port of Ayr - Tuesday 18th September 2012

Colin Hume, Commercial and Administration Manager, Associated British Ports.d

Colin Hume, Commercial and Administration Manager, Associated British Ports.

© John Fender, 2012

The Scottish Region visited the Port of Ayr and were given a presentation by Colin Hume, Commercial and Administration Manager, on the Ports of Ayr and Troon before having the opportunity to have a look round the port facilities and also visit one of the terminals at the port.

Operated by Associated Birtish Ports, the Port of Ayr is situated on the west coast of Scotland and is conveniently located to serve the south West of the country. Ayr has good road links to the surrounding area and access to the motorway network via the A77.

Ayr has a long maritime history being the oldest port on the west coast of Scotland, first mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1197. King William the Lion established the Burgh of Ayr in 1205 and the town received it's Charter in 1236. The location was also attractive to fishermen and ships were built at the mouth of the river Ayr. Shipbuilding continued until 1960 when the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company closed its shipyard at Ayr.

Ayr Harbour's importance grew and in the 1500's it was used to export wool, fish and hides. Imports included wine and salt. With growing industrial demand traffic increased and by the late 1700's improvements were necessary to cope with the increasing number of ships and the export of coal, which had become a major traffic. The harbour was owned by the Town Council and the north pier was built in 1800. In 1825 the south pier was built and in 1836 the north pier breakwater was constructed.

With the building of the Ayr & Glasgow Railway in 1840, a line was laid to the quayside and in 1863 the present lighthouse was built. In 1878 Griffin Dock was built and today the Port of Ayr covers 34 acres of land and 41 acres of water. Located on the north side of Ayr Harbour, the Port can handle a range of cargo and has a rail connection to the main line at Newton of Ayr station.

A ship typical of the size that uses the Port of Ayrd

A ship typical of the size that uses the Port of Ayr.

© John Fender, 2012

Ayr handles around 300 ship movements with around 50 million tonnes of cargo being handled per annum. Coal volumes fell from around 1.1 million tonnes to almost nothing between 1991 and 1995 and in 1996 the fish market moved to Troon prompting diversification into other cargos. Between 1998 and 2003 four general bulk stores were built, each with between 3500 and 5000 square metres of space.

Today the Port of Ayr handes cargos such as fertiliser from Norway, Belgium and Tunisia amounting to around 70,000 tonnes per annum. Scrap metal is exported to Spain or shipped to liverpool and this amounts to around 50,000 tonnes per annum. Coal exports have recovered and approximately 150,000 tonnes per annum are exported to Norway, Belgium and southern Ireland. Minerals accounts for another 40,000 tonnes per annum and consists of soda ash for glassmaking, ammonium nitrates and limestone.

Animal feed amounts to another 20,000 tonnes per annum and salt from Spain or Ireland accounts for around 95,000 tonnes per annum. Wind turbines, special projects and cruise ships can also be accommodated along with forestry products. To date over 300 wind turbines, consisting of nacelles weighing up to 90 tonnes and hubs of around 22 tonnes along with blades measuring up to 40 metres in length and the supporting columns have been handled at Ayr.

Moving on to the port of Troon, Colin Hume noted that the port is the most sheltered on the west cost of Scotland and was first mentioned in records dating back to 1608. Troon harbour was developed by the Duke of Portland in the 1800's and by 1870 was Scotland's main coal exporting port. The fish dock was opened in 1870 and the fish market moved to Troon from Ayr in 1996.

Troon was also the location of the Ailsa Shipyard which opened in 1885 and closed in 2000 and today the site is occupied by Garvel Clyde who operates the 122 metre long dry dock that can accommodate vessels of up to 17 metres beam. Today Troon's main business is the P & O Ferry service to Ireland, fishing and the Timberlink service. Around 60,000 passengers per annum use the ferry terminal although the ferry service only operates between March and October at present. Associated British Ports built the east pier for P & O at a cost of around £4.1 million.

The Timberlink service accounts for around 120,000 tonnes of timber for local mills. The Timberlink service was set up in 2000 and instead of logs being transported by road, they are shipped to Troon from Ardrishaig, Campeltown, Portavadie and Sandbank. Since it commenced some 96,000 lorry journeys amounting to over 11.5 million miles have been saved, benefiting the environment and removing large vehcile movements from narrow roads. Over 1.1 million tonnes of timber has been shipped. Associated British Ports operates the service and £1 milion per annum is provided by the Scottish Government in subsidy.

A large pile of salt recently delivered to Ayrd

A large pile of salt recently delivered to Ayr.

© John Fender, 2012

Following the presentation, the party had a look round the port and had the opportunity to visit the Jura Terminal, currently used by Peacock Salt Ltd., a specialist salt company that provides various types of salt including rock salt, road salt and salt for other uses.

During this tour of the facility the party saw various types of salt ready for processing, along with different salt products including salt that was for industrial as well as domestic use and also spreaders for gritting in winter. The company manufactures spreaders and a number were seen in various stages of production.

As is normal for Scottish Region events, the Chairman presented Colin Hume with a pair of Scottish Region engraved whisky glasses and additionally a video of railway operation in the South West of Scotland was also presented as a momento of the visit.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Associatied British Ports for enabiling the vist and Colin Hume and his staff for their hospitality.

Further information on Associated British Ports can be found on their website at:

Report and photographs by John Fender.


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