Storm-hit Scottish island completely cut-off after Coastguard brands dinghy used to cross 60m of water “dangerous”

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A SCOTTISH island is completely cut off from the mainland after residents were banned on safety grounds from crossing 60 metres of water in a dinghy.

Easdale Island’s ferry crossing is out of action after recent storms dumped tonnes of stone into the harbour.

So a local tour operator stepped in by using one of its outboard motor-powered RIBs – rigid inflatable boat – to help the 60 permanent islanders.

The storm caused the ferry to be blocked inside the harbour                                       Credit: Easdale Island Community

But the Coastguard have told the firm involved to stop immediately, claiming the boat they are using is unsuitable.

Furious islanders have branded as “ridiculous” and “a load of b*****s” the decision, which also means the Easdale has been left without GP cover.

Easdale, Argyll and Bute, is just off the bigger Island of Seil, which is connected by a road bridge to the mainland. Recent storms resulted in a mass of slate blocking the tiny natural harbour.

But Seafari Adventures’ bid to keep islanders moving quickly fell foul of the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Seafari members prepare a local for the short journey                                                Credit: Easdale Island Community

An email sent yesterday from the MCA told the firm: “I believe that the vessel is unsuitable for the purpose you are using it for and under Section 94 of the Merchant Shipping Act could potentially be considered as dangerously unsafe.

“Whilst I appreciate the ‘community’ aspect of what you are trying to achieve here, your company appears to be operating a ferry service between Easdale and Seil using an uncertified and unsuitable vessel.”

The unnamed official added: “I am happy to discuss the matter further, but based on your email cannot condone this operation at present and ask that it is stopped immediately.”

The dinghy in question dubbed “dangerous” by the Coastguard                                    Credit: Easdale Island Community

When the order to stop appeared online, it prompted fury on a local community page.

Eug Thomasson raged: “Literally one of the most ridiculous things I have seen in a very long time. 

“What is the world coming to and why wasn’t help provided by the council then? Sorry you all have to put up with this nonsense.”

Stuart Clark wrote: “What a load of b******s. Ok the authorities need to supply alternative transport. 

“The emergency services should be called. The Royal Navy should be requested for assistance. 

“The council will of course be billed for such services.

“Honestly what is going on?”

And Colin Gordon wrote: “Such a sorry state of affairs. 

“The fact that they have been reported is ridiculous, the community suffers from sheer pettiness.”

Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides.

The car-free island covers an area of less than 10 hectares but has a permanent population of about 60 – plus a similar number who own residential property and visit regularly.

To get to the mainland, islanders cross to Seil by ferry and then use the 200 year-old Clachan Bridge, known as the “Bridge over the Atlantic”. 

Eastdale Island where locals are rallying together after Storm Dennis                                                 Credit: Eastdale.org

Argyll and Bute Council said today they were in talks with the Coastguard to try to explain the “seriousness of the situation”.

A spokeswoman said: “This is an unique situation where a local business and the council have pulled together to meet the needs of the local community.

“We are in contact with MCA to explain the seriousness of the situation and need for this temporary solution to prevent the island being cut off.

“The Seafari vessel is the only one suitable for taking residents from the island to the mainland while the council ferry remains locked within Easdale Harbour. 

“This is not a paid-for service – this is simply an act of community spirit to enable local people to get to work or any other vital appointments.”

Maritime and Coastguard Agency today stood by their decision.

A spokesman said: “Set standards exist for vessels carrying passengers which provide a suitable level of safety.

“The use of uncertified vessels for the carriage of passengers means that, even with the best intentions, those passengers are placed at a higher risk and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency cannot support such actions.

“Suitable vessels, compliant with the necessary standards, are available to service the needs of the local community and our local Marine Office can provide support on the requirements.”

 

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