Exploratory test holes will be bored in the seabed at Stornoway harbour
Tests will start this week to help pave the way for the creation of a deep-water port at Stornoway, bringing major economic benefits to the town.
A deep-water port is a crucial part of Stornoway Port Authority’s ambitious 20-year masterplan and the exploratory work represents a key milestone in its commitment to the development.
The test holes in the seabed will determine the depth of rock and the soft material above it, providing the information to determine the design and construction of a facility that will help stimulate growth in a number of vital sectors.
To prepare for construction, and reduce risk by identifying the ground conditions early in the project development, the SPA has awarded the underwater investigation contract to Northern Irish company Causeway Geotech Ltd.
SPA chief executive Alex MacLeod said: “The award of this contract is the first step on the road to delivering our master plan and demonstrates our commitment to its implementation.
“We are delighted that work is now getting under way and we aim to press ahead so that Stornoway, its residents and our partners can enjoy the economic rewards from this development as quickly as possible.”
The new facility will help accelerate growth in the cruise business, by providing a berth for larger ships, provide improved berthing and servicing for oil and renewables projects as well as a new linkspan/freight ferry berth.
It will also provide bulk cargo handling and storage facilities, and enable the relocation of oil terminal and storage tanks out of the centre of Stornoway.
It is estimated the cruise sector alone could generate significant additional income by creating berthing facilities for larger vessels that cannot currently berth alongside.
Work undertaken this week includes a series of 24 geotechnical boreholes which will be drilled at Glumaig Bay and, whilst the equipment is onsite, will also drill seven at Newton Basin.
These will be 150mm in diameter and 10-30 metres deep to obtain information from the sediment and rock for analysis.
The information will be used to identify the depths, materials and locations to be dredged, as well as data required to design the reclamation and berthing structures adjacent to Arnish and the marina at Newton basin.
The contract is expected to run for about seven weeks, after which the boreholes will be sealed.
The deep-water port proposes –
• A RoRo terminal to provide back-up to the existing linkspan on Pier 3, and support a second ferry service focussing on freight.
• An extensive industrial base for planned onshore wind projects and future offshore wind, wave and tidal energy schemes as well as oil and gas developments in the Atlantic.
• A cruise berth for vessels up to 330 metres in length, bus marshalling area for passengers and access into Lews Castle grounds via a new footbridge.
• Space for relocating the oil terminal and storage tanks away from town.
• Bulk cargo handling and storage, warehousing
Stornoway is an established port on the cruise circuit, attracting 66 ships in 2016. However, the masterplan points out that it attracts relatively few large cruise vessels, as those over 156 metres in length cannot berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small boat.
To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships of 330 metres or more. This would attract an additional 20-25 vessels a year and increasing passenger visits to the levels experienced in Orkney and Shetland
The masterplan also identifies a shortage of yacht berths and amenities constraining potential growth in marine tourism.
The port has a popular marina that was expanded in 2014 and can now take 80 yachts. However, the berths filled up soon after they were installed and there is now a shortage of space during the summer.
To maintain its share of the growing yachting sector, Stornoway needs more berths and other facilities. It is estimated that an additional 100 berths could be filled in the short to medium term.
Stornoway deep water port Masterplan