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Claims of turmoil at Stornoway Port Authority as key people jump ship

A series of alleged blunders and the unexpected departures of several key people has led to widespread speculation that the management of Stornoway Port Authority is in meltdown.


SPA headquarters Amity House

In the most recent departure, seasoned mariner and former coastguard Captain Duncan Mackay quit suddenly two weeks ago as a member of the board in what one observer said was one of very few such walkouts since the former Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission was formed in 1863.

This week, as the authority was announcing incredibly-ambitious plans to make Stornoway a gateway for ships from China and the Far East in readiness for the melting of the Arctic icecaps decades hence, authority chairman Captain Angus Smith was also trying to play down the ongoing claims of an authority in the grip of crisis.

Responding to a series of questions sent to authority chief executive Jane Maciver, who was previously best known in the islands for running a dating agency, Capt Smith confirmed that deputy harbourmaster Malcolm Nicol had resigned in March and that instead of appointing an immediate replacement the port authority had “taken the opportunity to carry out a review of management structures”, a review which he claimed was ongoing.

He also confirmed that harbourmaster Torquil Macleod, who was also deputy chief executive, had also quit in May to move to a similar role at Cromarty Firth. There have been various local claims that the advertising of the post had been mishandled resulting in it being advertised for a harbourmaster only with no mention of the vital deputy chief executive’s role.

The chairman declined to comment directly on those claims and would only say: “Statutory requirements necessitate the port authority having someone fill the role of harbour master. The port authority has been fortunate in having been able to put in place temporary cover arrangements but has had to take further steps to ensure continued cover of the harbour master role.
“Applications have been received from suitably-qualified candidates and are being sifted to create a short list for interview. We hope to be in a position to make an appointment shortly. The permanent position remains subject to the on-going management structure review.”

Without explaining the reasons for the sudden departure of a board member, Capt Smith said Duncan Mackay made a valuable contribution to the port authority over nine years and wished him well. He also chose to make no comment on claims the SPA board was “in disarray” with deep divisions over policy and the performance of management.

A welter of claims that a recent Investors in People (IiP) report was hushed up and that yet another board member had threatened to quit if it was not published and acted on were denied by Capt Smith.

“The most recent IiP report is being used in exactly the same way as previous such reports, namely as an internal management tool for systems improvement. Stornoway Port Authority continues to work with the IIP standard,” said the chairman.

Captain Smith concluded: “The board of Stornoway Port Authority is wholly united in its focus upon the future development of the port.
“Future developments include, in the short term, the installation of piles for the expansion of the pontoon facility in the inner harbour; finding a long-term solution to the problem of ice provision in Stornoway; and of course, the procurement of the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the new ferry in 2014.”

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