It could be a scene from a latter-day version of Whisky Galore. In the week of their annual Whisky Festival, distillers on Islay are close to shutting down their stills as a result of what they claim is "bureaucratic bungling".
Whisky makers on the island off the west coast of Scotland, including Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Bowmore, will stop producing their golden spirit within weeks because of a shortage of fuel.
Tankers that supply the island with diesel and fuel oil have been unable to land their cargoes because of problems with a new pier. The trouble started when the existing pier was upgraded last year at a cost of [pound]4m by Argyll and Bute Council so that it could accommodate larger, twin-hulled tankers, which replaced a single- hulled vessel after the introduction of European safety legislation.
However, the new larger tanker can dock at the pier only with a full load of fuel, when seas are calm and there is an exceptionally high tide.
"You can imagine that those days are pretty rare in this part of the world," said Mark Reynier, the chief executive of Bruichladdich. "Locals were all opposed to the new pier because we knew it would not meet the requirements of the larger vessels. Despite our protests, the council in its wisdom went ahead and upgraded the pier anyway. The issue of silting underneath the pier is not going to go away. So now we are going to have to shut down production of our stills."
The situation is especially embarrassing as the island's Whisky Festival begins today.
Shell supplies the oil to Islay and it is distributed by a company in Elgin called Gleaner Oils. In a letter to managers at Bruichladdich last week, David Todd, the general manager at Gleaner, said: "We have to clearly state that we cannot guarantee supplies of medium fuel oil to the distilleries. …