Cruise ships which land visitors to Castlebay on the wrong slipway are violating international security arrangements designed to protect the UK’s security interests, according to harbour owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

A notice to mariners was issued last week (Friday August 10th) by CMAL, the statutory harbour authority for Castlebay Ferry Terminal. The notice reminds cruise operators of the security plan in place at Castlebay. By landing passengers using tenders on the inner slipway, cruise ships are by-passing arrangements to pass non-EU passengers through a temporary restricted area. The security plan ensures that the port complies with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.

CMAL’s harbourmaster David McHardie agreed that the error could be made ‘in all innocence’, but said the notice had been issued to avoid escalating the issue to the Department for Transport, which could take much stronger enforcement action.

Mr McHardie said: “As Castlebay Harbour receives calls by cruise ships the facility is required to comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The ISPS Code applies to ships on international voyages (including passenger ships, cargo ships of 500 GT and upwards) and the port facilities serving such ships and mainly looks after the security aspects of the ship and landing or embarkation of passengers, who may be non-EU nationals at their first point of arrival in the UK.  

“To accommodate calls by cruise vessels in particular, CFL was required to develop a port security plan (PSP) that is approved by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and should be implemented for each and every call by such vessels.

“The issue at Castlebay is that the slipway in the middle of the inner harbour does not belong to CMAL and hence is not operated by CFL and could not be included within the approved port security plan which would normally require a temporary restricted area to be set up through which access and egress from the ship is controlled.

“I recently received information that cruise tenders had been landing passengers on the slipway. In doing so, cruise ships are effectively bypassing the security measures that CFL would require to implement, albeit perhaps in all innocence without the knowledge that this was an ISPS facility with an approved security plan.

“At this stage, to avoid needing to escalate this further to the DfT who may take a strong enforcement view, I issued the notice to mariners to make it clear to mariners that this is an ISPS facility.”

The notice issued on Friday warns: “While cruise vessels may be unaware this area is out with the Castlebay Ferry Terminal PFSP, ship security officers are advised to contact the harbour office for guidance prior to landing or embarking passengers and are reminded that failure to comply with the appropriate security standards is a contravention of the Merchant Shipping Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations 2004.”

The notice includes a plan (below) which clarifies the area not controlled by security arrangements.