Lairds powering on to get Western’s boats completed

Western at Lairds 3

Thanks to the virtually airborne photographer, Andy Mahon [Das Boot], in his occasional eyrie in the Clock Tower at Birkenhead Priory, a quarter of a mile away from the Cammell Laird wetbasin, we are getting regular updates on the progress the shipbuilder is making in the completion of the two new Western Ferries‘ boats.

Western at Lairds 1

Work is tramping on. The major focus of activity seems to be on the Sound of Seil – which was the first to be slipped and looks as if she is also destined to be the first to be completed. Her AIS has also been active for a while where Soay’s is not yet in evidence.

Work on Sound of Soay is proceeding steadily but without the great bustle that seems to be evident around Sound of Seil.

Western at Lairds 2 ˙Andy Mahon

As of Wednesday 21st August, Soay still had her bridge windows covered [top] and Seil was a hive of activity, with bodies darting about all at all levels.

Western will be pleased that Lairds are clearly putting the pressure on to get the job finished.

With the amount of scaffolding around the vessel, Seil was clearly not going into the river for engine and manoeuverability trials in the past week – but may do so in this coming week.

Western at Lairds 4

Another indication that engine trials for the Western Boats were not imminent in this past week was the berthing of Irish Sea Pioneer across the entrance to No 5 dry dock – not so dry just now. The  notes below on decoding the content of the photographs will make this position clear.

Irish Sea Pioneer is a fascinating vessel – the first of a new class of giant liftboats, built in the USA and used to hoist offshore wind turbine towers, blades, nacelles and hubs etc into place on their platforms. She’s self-elevating, with an electrically- driven jacking system that raises and lowers four, 240-ft. [73.2m] legs to the sea floor, then raises the vessel to the desired working height. The leg housing is built into her hull, giving much greater safety and stability than previous generations of her type.

She left the Mersey just before 15.00 yesterday, 23rd August and is now out at the Lennox Platform in the Irish Sea, at the northern part of Liverpool Bay, off Southport.

Decoding the photographs

In the photographs of the ongoing work on Sound of Seil, above, the background is the pale grey corrugated back wall of the wetbasin – with dark ‘things’ we cannot identity. Some appear to be work lights. Some may be staying points. Some may be no more than wear and tear marks.

In the photograph of the Irish Sea Pioneer, if you look to the left of the top section of the yellow crane on her deck, you will see a long, level pale grey building projecting into the skyline. That is the end wall of the wetbasin. If you follow the right hand side of this building to the ground, you will see the red-hulled Sound of Seil at the far right of the basin. Soay is at right angles to her, along the back quayside and just about hidden by the almost indiscernible grey hull of the Royal Navy’s RFA Fort Rosalie. The photograph gives you the geography of this area and a sense of the relative scale of things.

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22 Responses to Lairds powering on to get Western’s boats completed

  1. So they are not actually as promised going to be in service for the games this year?

    If they were in service what would the additional car carrying capacity and people carrying capacity per hour have been?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

    • So ferryman you have jumped page, I wish you would answer the questions on the other ferry story. Or have you decided to ruin this article with your bile.

      If they are late then they are late, however they hare going to be the only new ferries Dunoon will benefit from from years to come.

      I am sure you and all the action group are looking forward to slating them when they arrive. Is that why you are upset. Or is the coverage the local paper will give to them?

      Another question when you go to Edinburgh are you taking the coach on western service?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

      • I’ll bet they’re not actually contractually late, nor late according to the project schedule, they’re likely just not a few weeks early.

        How about an update on Calmac’s bonkers £12 million battery boats? (That’s £12 million EACH.) One of them has been in the water almost since Cammell Laird started cutting steel for the new WF pair but not the least hint is being given as to when when they’ll be in service.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

        • No doubt the fancy battery/diesel electric set-up is causing some reinventing of the wheel; I don’t think a similar system has been built in the UK since the Upholder diesel-electric subs 20 years ago. Shipyard or contractor experience in specialist areas like this evaporates quickly without use.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

    • Talk about raining on someone’s parade.
      Hard to fathom what the gripe is about Western: private sector operator, private investment, new boats, prices kept low, the most reliable ferry on the Clyde, fast response to demand, the major contributor to the gross over-provision of ferry service capacity and frequency for Dunoon… So what’s the grudge?
      The Cowal Games will have had no reason to factor in the new Western boats and will be well served by its existing four-strong fleet.
      Cammell Laird are clearly working hard to complete the new boats and they will still have produced them in pretty short order.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

      • Key word: Private.

        Some people are stuck in a 1950s timewarp mentality.

        What they forget is that even in the straitened 1950s, the likes of the nationalised Clyde ferry services were expected to, and sometimes even did, make a respectable profit from their operation.

        Now, they want something equivalent to a nationalised transport equivalent of the NHS. “Entitlement”, I think they call it nowadays.

        Lack of firm political leadership all round (not least in oversight of the profligacies of Calmac and in management of the more ludicrous of public expectations) has led us to this.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

        • The 1950s timewarp also dictates a town centre to town centre service; modern thinking would keep the traffic as far from the town centre as possible, especially when the alternative crossing is half the length!

          The real problem with the FAG is that they are hell-bent on having a car ferry. There is simply not the market for one, despite what all the so-called (and self-proclaimed) experts think. Before July 2011 less than a tenth of the car traffic used it. What’s changed? Hee-haw.

          No, the FAG should be concentrating on having the current passenger service furnished with proper landing facilities, not expensive (and redundant) vehicle linkspans. These should be removed immediately, sold for scrap, and replaced with proper landing stages from which passengers are able to embark and disembark safely using small gangways (make them wide, too, for wheelchairs and prams) that give a safe and level access.

          Let’s hear no more of this unnecessary car ferry nonsense, please!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

          • With a similar service level to Western’s Hunter’s Quay-MacInroy’s rather than CalMac’s Colintraive-Rhubodach that could be quite a change for Bute, although the road to Toward would need a lot of improvement to deal with the likely traffic levels.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. From the pics we’ve seen it would appear that the new ferries don’t have separate passenger boarding access. By this I mean that passengers will still need to access the ferry (ahead of traffic) over the vehicle ramp. Wonder why they didn’t design a passenger gate/ramp which would speed up embarkation/disembarkation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • Yes, Pete I thought that as well. Thought as the linkspans have the passenger section the same length as the vehicle section the new ships would have an opening at each end, as you would for a gangplank.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • Can’t say I’ve noticed any delays to Western’s service caused by loading passengers and cars over the same ramp (much as many of the smaller Calmac ferries do as well), and anyway there are possibly good structural reasons for not making the car ramps on the boats any wider.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. re chain 1 above which has run out of reply buttons-
    A from ferry from Ardyne to Bute would be a disaster for Toward, Innellan and Dunoon.

    In any case it appears that Ardyne has been sold to a property development company.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    • Jim B why would it be a disaster? Yes, the ground has been sold to a property development company, who are going to ask what type of development is needed. Depending on what they decide e.g. Some type of leisure facilities a ferry terminal may be very benificial to residents of Bute. Then there are a large number of regular users from the Dunoon area who would be glad not to have to travel to Colintraive, the cost of their fuel, then pay excessive fares, plus if they are like the Council and have more than one vehicle, they must purchase separate books of tickets for each vehicle. Argyll and Bute Council must have to buy dozens of books at a massive cost, even though they might only need tickets for a few journeys. I would have thought that Bute residents and visitors would use this route to use the shops, businesses in Dunoon. I have possibly got this all wrong, and would be happy to be corrected!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • The road to Ardyne would need serious upgrading – but that would be the case anyway, if it were to cope with any major development either there or at Castle Toward.
        If the road from Dunoon to Ardyne was a decent road, a ferry from there to Bute would serve a real purpose. It would be likely to make Colintraive redundant but for the great majority of travellers in both directions, the Dunoon-Ardyne-Port Bannatyne route would be quicker and easier. It would have the capacity to contribute to the economic development of both towns.These are the two most self-neglected and deprived towns in Argyll – a cycle of careless despair that has to be broken from within as well as from without.
        Infrastructurally speaking, the investment in upgrading the road to Ardyne would be a lot less than making the Dunoon to Colintraive route over the pass at Glen Lean a two way road.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        • Agreed but what are now quiet communities would become hosts to a race track for ferry users. Since Innellan in particular is a linear village I wonder how residents visiting the village shop or The Osbourne ( when it reopens ) will be able to turn round to go back home?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

          • Linear villages have no escape from roads, do they?
            Minard in Mid Argyll is one such – with the A83 trunk road running the full length of it.
            The solution there is a wide pavement on the residential side.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Just noticed that 20MPH westerly winds are currently forecast for Cowal Games Saturday. If this comes to pass then Western will have it all to themselves as the bathtubs will be off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

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