Ullapool Harbour

The Ferry Infrastructure Improvements project at Ullapool Harbour is progressing well and is on track to complete by October 2014.

Works began on the £12 million scheme, which is situated in Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands, at the start of this year and are being funded by the Ullapool Harbour Trust and Transport Scotland.

The project involves the extension of the existing ferry pier by 35 metres and the installation of a new fender system, a new Passenger Access System (PAS), as well as the extension and renovation of the current ferry terminal. The current facilities have been instrumental in the running of the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry service for over 40 years.

The project is required as the new ships passing through the harbour are now 14 metres longer and 3000 tonnes heavier than they used to be. As a consequence Ullapool requires a longer pier and larger fender panels. Additionally the existing PAS does not meet with current legislation and the terminal building has insufficient seating for the 700 passenger capacity of the Loch Seaforth.

RJ McLeod won the construction contract for the pier works and Adelte were awarded the works for the PAS replacement; both companies are assisted by Matheson Mackenzie Ross Architects. The extension and renovation of the terminal building is currently out to tender.

Ullapool Harbour aims for all of the works to be completed by September, prior to the arrival of the newly built ro-ro ferry. The roll-on/roll-off ship is one of the most successful types operating today as it has the flexibility to integrate with other transport systems, as well as being considerably quicker than other ferry’s.

The pier extension is being constructed off site at Inchgreen Drydock on the Clyde as a Caisson which will be towed to Ullapool and sunk into position off the end of the ferry pier. The reason behind this unorthodox approach is to have a controlled environment to build the structure over the winter months thus avoiding any impact on the ongoing ferry arrivals at the berth.

Works on the current Ferry Terminal building has not yet commenced; the existing single story building spans 330m². When works began the property will be being extended by a further 6.7 metres on the ground floor and a second story will be added creating a total area of over 800m².

The main materials used will include steel and glass and the lower floor will be finished in glass and block work with a wet dash finish. The building’s new upper floor will be clad in aluminium panelling and glass. The design features of particular interest include the terminal roof which will have integrated solar photo voltaic panels and the heating system will be an ocean source heat pump to low temp radiators.

The Ferry Terminal’s ground floor will be leased to Calmac and will contain their check-in counter, toilets, seating and lift. There will be stair access to the first floor through which passengers will access the Passenger Access System. Within this space there will be extensive seated waiting area for those passing through.

Kevin Peach, Ullapool Harbour Master, told us that there have been a few difficulties during the construction process:

“Due to the construction works the Ferry Terminal ticketing offices and staff will move to temporary accommodation in the car park across the road. A covered walkway has also been installed to provide sheltered, safe access for foot passengers navigating their way onto the ferry.”

Kevin added that because of the project over the water scaffolding has to be installed which poses a risk and has to be dealt with as safely and carefully as possibly.

Lochshell Engineering, a mechanical engineering and fabrication company, are working on the harbour redevelopment. With specialism’s in general and numeric machining, fabrication, welding and pressure testing the company are ideally placed to assist with this scheme.

Dawson Contract Piling specialise in harbour and river work piling and have worked on a plethora of projects previously, illustrating their expertise in piling solutions. Dawson have also been instrumental in the Ullapool Harbour project as have Coastworks Operations; a UK based workboat and barge supply company which were established in 1994.

Their fleet of vessels comprises 2 workboats, 2 tugs and 5 barges of various sizes; due to being based on the Clyde estuary they have undertaken and successfully completed many projects around the UK, Europe and the Baltic.

Shearwater Marine, a commercial diving and marine contractors based on the Holy Loch in the Clyde Estuary, have been in operation since 1991 and specialise in a number of areas. These include renewable energy projects, potable water cleaning, shipping services, underwater inspection, aquaculture and construction and demolition. Shearwater Marine is also involved in the Ullapool Harbour development.

Other sub contractors involved with Ullapool Harbour’s regeneration include Gitsham Fabrications, James Evans & Sons Ltd and Stoddart Crane Hire Ltd.

A brief overview of Ullapool Harbour

Ullapool Harbour is situated in the waters of Loch Broom, a natural harbour, offering good protection from the open waters of the Minch. The harbour area covers 26 square miles and provides deep water anchorage for large vessel such as cruise liners and drill ships. The modern pier has been upgraded and enlarged several times in its 220 year history.


The fishing industry has been at the heart of Ullapool since it was founded by the British Fisheries Society in 1788. Many crews have enjoyed the advantages of visiting Ullapool and return year after year.


Ullapool is the mainland port for ferry services to the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles. Calmac currently operates a twice daily service for passengers and vehicles on the ‘m.v.Isle of Lewis’ and an overnight service for freight only on the ‘m.v. Muirneag’. A bus service connects with the passenger ferry and all buses through Ullapool use the harbour as a main stopping point. 


The harbour caters for a diverse range of harbour traffic all year round. The harbour is open and staffed day and night, every day of the year. 

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