Jackie Baillie MSP calls on SPT to ‘get a grip’ on Kilcreggan ferry situation

Kilcreggan ferry 1

(Updated below) ‘Yet another fiasco’, is how Jackie Baillie, describes the latest incident with the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry serving the Rosneath peninsula in her constituency.

Ms Baillie claims – and has given us the photographs that show it, that this week passengers travelling on the Island Princess were left stunned as the skipper attempted to set sail from Kilcreggan pier whilst still tethered to the mooring post.

Kilcreggan ferry 2This is a manoeuvre which has the capacity to imperil the structural integrity of both the pier and the boat.

It is the latest in a series of  errors from Clydelink, the operating company selected to operate the service on behalf of SPT from 1st April 2012.

The MSP says that since then sailings have been cancelled on a number of occasions, with only two of these cancellations being weather related instances.

Last month Ms Baillie met with SPT’s chief executive, Gordon Maclennan and other officers along with users of the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service and Greenock MSP Duncan McNeil to try and find a solution to this on-going saga.

She now says: ‘Enough is enough. SPT really need to get a grip of this situation.

‘Since SPT awarded the tender to Clyde link in April it has been one thing after another blighting this service.

‘I would urge SPT to call for a full investigation into this matter. It is clear that awarding a contract based on lowest cost does not prove for a reliable and fully functional service.

It is clear from FOI responses that passengers have received that Clydelink have failed to adhere to the majority of their contract.

‘Passengers were promised a new 60-seater vessel, but instead are being ferried from Gourock to Kilcreggan in a 16-year-old boat which has broken down on several occasions.

‘Clydelink is clearly in breach of contract and I would expect SPT, at the very least, to issue penalties, and if the service does not make an immediate improvement, to find a replacement operator.

‘SPT has a duty of care and they need to step up to the plate and provide my constituents with a safe and reliable service.’

Speaking about the latest ferry incident, one local resident said:

‘The boat was actually stopped by the rope. By the shouts of the crew it appeared that there was little control of the boat. After several minutes we moved back to the pier where the rope was removed. Is this proper seamanship?’

No it is not. Having once been in an incident of this kind and having seen the damage to the boat and the potential damage to those onboard caused by accelerating away while still tied to a fixed berthing bollard, we are aware just how fortunate the outcome of this incident has been. From the photographs it would seem that the crew spotted this error in time to prevent the Island Princess accelerating away.

In a public service, this simply should never happen.

Update 14.45

Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) have reacted to Ms Baillie’s call, saying:

‘We are aware of passenger comments which are being reported widely out of context. SPT takes the safety of passengers very seriously and the operator assured us that the rope was deliberately left in place as an added security measure to bring the vessel back to berth and reinstate mooring lines which had become loose. The service then continued as usual.’

Jackie Baillie has responded saying:

‘This takes the prize for the most absurd quote of the year, given that the ferry was leaving not berthing.

‘It is clear that SPT are all at sea over this issue.’

The logic so far is with Jackie Baillie. SPT have no knowledge of seamanship, with this ferry they don’t really want the only such service in their portfolio. We can see no immediatelysupportable scenario in what they are saying here.

Note: Here are relevant background documents to this issue:

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Jackie Baillie MSP is a well regarded and canny politician, but is her plea for the SPT to ‘get a grip’ realistic, or should it be a plea to the Holyrood government to face up to the need to get a very firm (and reforming) grip on SPT itself?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Robert Wakeham June 15, 2012 1:51 pm Reply
  • The ferry left Kilcreggan To go Gorock whilst still Berthed.

    When it returned later that day fro Gourock it only had one engine working … it then made two more journeys but had to be repaired because the MCA was informed that day so it had to be fixed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    jack-elliot June 15, 2012 3:23 pm Reply
  • There is an anonymous reporting system MARS run by http://www.nautinst.org/en/forums/mars/index.cfm It is designed just for such incidents, where the management and crew close ranks to refute any situation which may lead to an accident or not be in the interest of best practice.
    The Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme is primarily a confidential reporting system run by The Nautical Institute to allow full reporting of accidents (and near misses) without fear of identification or litigation. As a free service to the industry, MARS reports also regularly comprise alerts condensed from official industry sources, so that issues resulting from recent incidents can be efficiently relayed to the mariner on board, and is a valuable risk assessment, work planning, loss prevention tool and training aid for crew and management.
    They want to hear about any unsafe practices, dangerous occurrences, personal accidents, near miss situations or equipment failures which you have experienced, and any methods adopted to prevent repetitions. Within the context of ship operations, the scheme is unlimited, international in outlook, and open to commercial, naval, fishing and pleasure users.
    Email your report to them, or print the MARS hardcopy form and, if required, the continuation form, record your report on these forms and send to:
    MARS Editor – Confidential
    The Nautical Institute
    202 Lambeth Road
    SE1 7LQ, UK
    MCA and all nautical bodies support MARS. If SPT think that dangerous occurances can be swept under the carpet then they should think again.
    Ferry tries to leave terminal with a line ashore made fast is less than comic these days

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    Hamish Beaton June 15, 2012 5:37 pm Reply
  • As a passenger on the ferry at this time, it was a terrifying experience as we were catapulted back into our seats with the shock of the vessel hitting the pier as we returned to untie the ropes. As a daily commuter I have sadly become accustomed to such levels of profiency on this service.

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    Michelle McNamee June 15, 2012 5:47 pm Reply
  • “We can see no immediately supportable scenario in what they are saying here”

    Apart from the loose mooring line visible in the photo, the blue one in the water?

    As for structural damage to the pier I would expect the rope to fail first, if it didn’t then they need to condemn the entire structure as unsafe.

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    AWS June 15, 2012 5:59 pm Reply
    • AWS
      I think that the blue lines are meant to be left secured to the pier in a manner that permits the V/L to come alongside and the line retrieved from the pier decking and the V/L hove alongside and made fast. Therefore, the fact that the blue line is in the water means that the undocking procedure has failed.
      Piers are designed to take a limited amount of pounding, unlike a solid structure. In fact the pier’s stiffening is designed primarily to resist a compression impact. Clearly, as reported here, if the V/L steams away at speed then like a tug there will be a bollard pull of several tonnes. Having stood on the poop or foc’sle when a rope parts, I can tell you it is a most unpleasant experience, with the potential for serious injury or death. This instant is a dangerous occurrance, given the proximity of the open aft shelter passenger space to the mooring ropes and the likely hood of a warp or line parting and whipping inboard and must be reported to the MCA as an unsafe maneuver, coupled by what sound like a breakdown in the ship’s management, command and control.
      I guess Argyll Council will be interested to inspect this maneuver given the likely hood of damage to their structure.
      I would also propose that SPT’s corporate communications department do not have the maritime expertise to adjudge what is dangerous maneuver (or do they just ban passengers from photographing ships and posting to the internet or rubbishing their clients about what they saw and reported? Clearly disciples of the Argyll method of information management) – that is why it is best left to the experts – the MCA.
      Maritime and Coastguard Agency
      Navy Buildings
      Eldon Street
      PA16 7QY
      Tel : 01475 729988

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      Hamish Beaton June 15, 2012 11:42 pm Reply
      • I fully agree that the MCA are those best qualified to make judgements on this matter. I was only trying to highlight that the pictures did support more having occurred than the report states.
        I don’t think this could be treated as anything less than a ‘near miss’ in reporting terms as there is a loose mooring line and as you state had the other line parted the consequences could have been more severe.
        I would still expect the pier to be a far more robust structure than implied, it was built in a bygone age to accommodate vessels of far greater size and power than the current ferry. Having observed the Waverley use a mooring line to assist in ‘reversing’ around the corner of Helensburgh Pier gives an idea of just how much force these structures can withstand.

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        awsnews June 19, 2012 8:32 am Reply
  • Time this was wrapped up. It is over subsidised for the amount of passengers being carried on runs regularly. Or the service should be reduced to only cover peak times.

    It is embarassing that such a small part of SPT’s decent network is causing so much public debate and finger pointing.

    Anyone who has cause for concern in relationship to the seamanship/competency of the crew and or vessel should contact the MCA as they accepted this vessel for this run.

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    Local River Worker 2 June 15, 2012 7:42 pm Reply
    • MCA have been contacted on numerous occasions and have been fully involved in this saga.

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      Councillor George Freeman June 15, 2012 7:59 pm Reply
    • Local River Worker 2
      I think that you’l find that the SPT is a not for profit organisation that cannot balance it’s books without a central Government grant. It is also mandated by the Scottish Government to provide a minimum level of local transport across its region. All it’s services are cross subsidized, some more than others. The ferry is there to provide access to essential services on both banks of the clyde, the fact that it runs at all is amazing given the inept management and their inability to advertise the ferry’s benefits. It need not be this way, there is a demand, and with imaginative marketing this demand can be increased, bringing tourists and jobs to a beautiful part of the river. It’s just that this SPT quango lacks vision and enterprise. They have a strange creed, if doesn’t break even axe it, good old Dr Beeching stuff, and look at the legacy he left us. It’s good to see what kids in Argyll can do on the internet, both advertising Argyll and tying the bureaucratics up in knots at the same time – magic, it’s a pity that the adults weren’t as creative. It’s a great wee ferry but badly run and managed, with an ageing boat, but this can be changed given the will to succeed.

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      Hamish Beaton June 15, 2012 10:16 pm Reply
  • As is the norm, this will again be ignored by SPT.

    There have been calls for investigations on a number of occasions – nothing happens.

    The matter has been raised with Ministers in the Scottish Government – nothing happens.

    A motion was agreed in the Scottish Parliament – nothing happens.

    Meeting have been held with the SPT Chief Executive and other senior SPT officials – nothing happens (I refused to go to the last meeting the the SPT Chief Executive as I stated that, based on previous experience, it would be a waste of time and nothing would happen.

    I await information from Audit Scotland on the investigation that I requested into the tendering and contract award process. Audit Scotland did arrange for KPMG as SPT’s external auditors to look into this matter and to report back to them. The timescale for them responding back to me is before the end of the month.

    Although external auditors often have cosy relationships with the internal auditors of the organisations that they audit, I am hopeful that KPMG will act totally responsibly and report the clear facts to Audit Scotland.

    Unless we get action soon, this matter will be taken to the Ombudsman and further. Further motions to the Council are also being considered. We are not going to rest until this issue has been resolved.

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    Councillor George Freeman June 15, 2012 7:57 pm Reply
    • Councilor George Freeman
      “Meeting have been held with the SPT Chief Executive and other senior SPT officials – nothing happens (I refused to go to the last meeting the the SPT Chief Executive as I stated that, based on previous experience, it would be a waste of time and nothing would happen.”

      A waste of whose time Councilor Freeman? You are elected to represent the people. Surly it is necessary to meet with the SPT to understand and challenge their position.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Hamish Beaton June 16, 2012 5:52 pm Reply
      • I have attended meetings with the SPT Chief Executive and almost every Tom, Dick and Harry on this subject over the past 5 months.

        The last meeting was a waste of time for everyone who attended as is clear from all the correpondence I continue to receive on this matter.

        I have led on this subject since day 1 and have only received thanks and support from everyone for all that I have been doing. This has also been the case at all of the public meetings that I have spoken at on this subject. This is the first negative comment I have had from thousands of emails on the subject over the past 5 months.

        This makes me wonder who Hamish Beaton is? He is certainly not from my area or at least he is not on the Electoral Register for my area. This is why he is probably not aware of all that has been going on with regards to this subject.

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        Councillor George Freeman June 17, 2012 3:17 pm Reply
        • Flattered that you took the time to inspect the Electrol Register? No, not from your area. My interest stems from the days I used the Gourock Helensburgh ferry, it made travelling from Cowal to Dumbarton easier and enjoyable. I think the withdrawal of the Helensburgh service was fundamentally flawed, and I can see the same approach to the remaining service being applied by SPT, which will lead to its eventual withdrwal on the grounds that it is poorly used. So there are three issues. Firstly There is the current safety concerns which need raising with MCA – I have given the phone number. In addition there is a confidential reporting system MARS again I have given contact details. Secondly there’s the SPT. There is a Government policy that SPT must provide services to the community. OK my view is that SPT take the easy path in that if the service is borderline necessary, then they appear to let it wither to the point where they can say it is unjustified and close it. I believe that that the service needs to be run and SPT needs to promote it as the last ferry that permits a middle reach circular route of the Clyde. Furthermore – I believe that the Helensburgh section should be reinstated and the route integrated into bus rail timetable, linking the North and the South banks with integrated transport hubs of Helensburgh to Gourock. That these transport system should not work in isolated “silos” but be integrated.
          Thirdly. Yes I did have a pop at you Councillor Freeman, no personal malice intended, and I guess you are busy with much on your plate but you have to ask “what have I achieved by what I do”. I would have thought that you need to take every opportunity to put your and the wider community case to SPT until they are sick of hearing from you, and your mates. The actions taken so far indicated that you will get the brush off until some ombudsman intervenes or the issue is kicked into the long grass. Perhaps a disservice to you, but that is the conclusion I reached from what you said. Now If I’m wrong and SPT bend to the will of the people then I apologise. After all they said that the Tarbert Portavadie ferry was a dead loss now just compare and contrast the money spent in that region and the new jobs generated. Oh, and by the way, I will use the service, even if just to pop across for an ice cream on a sunny day and I’ll bring my mates too.

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          Hamish Beaton June 18, 2012 2:40 pm Reply
          • ‘There is a government policy that SPT must provide services to the community’ – it’s not that long ago that some of the SPT leadership seemed more focused on providing services to themselves, and can anyone tell me whether there’s been a thorough cleanout of this authority? Is it now fit for purpose, and capable of rising to the challenge of doing more than just ‘managing’ the decline of a potentially very valuable ferry system?

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            Robert Wakeham June 18, 2012 3:17 pm
  • I was there – we were moving forward under power, the crew were shouting a the skipper to stop, we kept going until the rope snapped taut and stopped the boat. And they claim this was deliberate? What if the rope had snapped and whipped back – it could have killed someone. Unfortunately for those of us using the boat on a daily basis, we are becoming used to such incidents – surely not a good state of affairs?

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    Kerr Gardiner June 16, 2012 5:49 pm Reply
    • How on earth can three people ‘dislike’ this account of what happened – do they think it’s untrue?

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      Robert Wakeham June 16, 2012 9:41 pm Reply
    • How can so many people disagree with Kerr or is this site being nobbled?

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      Hamish Beaton June 17, 2012 12:26 am Reply
    • SPT has chosen to accept the operator’s version rather than that of the passengers. Presumably the pier master who is working out his extended notice will have witnessed this and sent in a report. Perhaps For Argyll can contact the council to ascertain what was in his report and if it corroborates the version given by the passengers ask what action the authority has taken to lodge a complaint with SPT and also to make the MCA aware of it’s concern for the safety of passengers. If no action is contemplated one can then ask the reason behind retaining the pier master for an extended period when the operator is not being charged the normal landing dues!

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      Harry June 17, 2012 12:20 pm Reply
  • Local River Worker – you say this ferry is under used. Before the Helensburgh run was stopped I decided to go to Helensburgh on the ferry, but when I went to catch it was asked if I was returning on the bus? I asked why and was told the ferry did not come back again that day. What exact use is this. Many more people would make use of the ferry if the times were thought out a bit more cleverly. In light of the recent fiascos I am extremely nervous about travelling on it especially in rougher weather which it is obvious from recent episodes that this boat and crew are not prepared for.

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    Concerned June 16, 2012 9:59 pm Reply
    • And if there’s a risk of a mooring rope violently parting (as reported above), and you’re anywhere near it, you could literally lose your head.

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      Robert Wakeham June 16, 2012 10:38 pm Reply
  • Happy with the subsidised method of SPTs affair, unhappy with how much this one particular route is subsidised……. Not difficult to realise when you hear 3 crew on a passage with no passengers regularly as I do.
    If the tide height at Helensburgh doesn’t work into the route; so be it. This cannot be changed and a bus return journey is better than a ferry aground off Helensburgh ‘obviously’.
    This route is not utilised to its fullest potential and will not be under the current structure so should therefore be wrapped up. No private company will operate this service as it cannot be profitable. We cannot afford to subsidise this route and many other things we continue to support. On the bus or in your car, it’s harsh but true.
    Generally no one visits Kilcgreggan or Gourock specifically so these are just thoroughfares. Lets get a service going from where it is required to a destination (Helensburgh to Greenock may be an idea) of note, this may almost pay off.
    I would catch that twice daily.
    Contact the MCA/MAIB reference any semanship/unsafe operations concerns, it is their job to follow this up.

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    Local River Worker 2 June 17, 2012 1:38 am Reply
  • councillor it is your job to represent you constituents not decide if and when you should represent them.
    If you couldn’t find the meeting effective you have described your own input brilliantly – our leaders should be able to guide debate not get bogged down in the pettiness.
    You have failed in this debate and have show so by not partaking – I’m furious by your lack of strength regarding this and you will fail to get me to vote on your/party behalf again.
    Where do you stand on Helensburgh CHORD – or is there a fence involved again when you feel this is necessary. Lets get it done before it never happens – a bunch of kids could have done better and quicker regarding the process given the authority. My major concern is the next thing we hear is appropriate funding is not in place and lets vote or consult again and again and again – then appropriate funding is not available – end of debate.

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    Local River Worker 2 June 17, 2012 1:53 am Reply
  • This route provides a number of essential transport links – for students, workers, shopping, accessing hospitals. As long as SPT take their stance that they don’t want to run it then it will never be a proper service and will continue to decline – however this is no reason to advocate getting rid of the route rather a reason for getting rid of SPT! Local river workers post suggests to me that we should be looking at increasing river routes and traffic rather than reducing.

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    Kerr Gardiner June 17, 2012 12:52 pm Reply
  • Noted the comments from Harry above. I have already informed him that I have previoulsy requested a copy of the Pier Master’s report from Council officers. I have also ignored the second set of comments from Local River Worker 2 above unless he or she can identify theselves and not hide behind a pseudonym.

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    Councillor George Freeman June 17, 2012 3:31 pm Reply
  • What’s ridiculous is all the brou-ha-ha going on about CHORD funding in H’burgh, funding which was supposed to enhance the seaside aspects of all the towns involved, but no money to go to preserving the pier and the ferry service. I live in Kilcreggan, and when I told my friends in H’burgh how sad I was that the ferry service between H’burgh, K’gan and Gourock was to be cancelled, they were amazed to find out that there was a ferry leaving from H’burgh!!! The ferry was never marketed as a tourist attraction, and it should be reinstated and marketed by the Tourist Office in H’burgh as a way of enjoying the upper Firth of Clyde. Use some of that CHORD money that’s going to be wasted on seafront fripperies that will disappear in the first winter storm of 2012-13. Timetable should be rejigged to facilitate commuter traffic in the a.m. and p.m. between the three destinations. And find a DECENT boat, not one run by the seat of its trousers, by a boatyard with a reputation of financial insecurity.

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    greenergood June 18, 2012 8:00 pm Reply

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