CalMac apologise following three consecutive Sunday sailing cancellations

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Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne have apologised after the 8.20am sailing from Brodick to Ardrossan was cancelled three times in succession last month.

Taking place on Sunday November 11, 18 and 25, CalMac blamed the coincidental cancellations on the severe weather conditions and a problem with the passenger access system (PAS).

In response to a communication from Kenneth Gibson MSP who was contacted by concerned constituents about the cancellations, a spokesman from CalMac said : ‘On Friday November 9 the vessel berthed in Brodick however the conditions were severe and we incurred some damage to the PAS. Temporary repairs were effected. Due to bad weather the following weekend the vessel was forced to berth overnight in Ardrossan impacting on the 8.20 on Sunday.’

‘Without disrupting service, other than a Saturday night we are unable to carry out any in-berth tests therefore after completion of service on Saturday night we were attempting to test an alternative crew gangway which can be used to allow the crew to leave the vessel in an emergency.

‘The gangway was hooked up to the gangway hoist and attempted to be brought on board. Unfortunately we were unable to get the gangway connected due to issues with the fixed end of the PAS fouling the end of the gangway, preventing the gangway being angled enough. There was little leeway to move the vessel to accommodate this and in addition it was noted that the gangway was not engaging fully with the latch bar on the vessel. As a result we were unable to carry out a weight test which is required for us to be able to use the gangway therefore it was decided to abort the work. Given the amount of swell present the option of staying in Brodick with the stern ramp down (to allow crew emergency exit) wasn’t an option given the potential to damage either the ramp or the linkspan. As such the vessel returned to Ardrossan for the night.  This meant that the 8.20am from Brodick was cancelled.

‘We are very conscious of the need to provide timely and frequent service updates unfortunately there was no advance warning of the issue that caused the cancelled sailing hence the lack of prior notice to customers on the 24th for the sailing on the 25th.

‘Please accept our apologies for the disruption and inconvenience to our passengers, we are grateful for their continued patience.’

Kenneth Gibson said: ‘Many islanders are sceptical that the same sailing was cancelled three weeks in a row. However, CalMac are aware of such concerns and is working to ensure no further Sunday morning cancellations.

‘What is also vitally important – and CalMac agree – is that travellers are given up to date and consistent information when sailings are cancelled or disrupted if they are to maintain the confidence and trust of their customers.’

Adding to the difficulties with the PAS, there have also been concerns regarding the Irish Berth – the back-up berth in Ardrossan which is used in certain wind conditions and which has been removed from service.

The CalMac website which provides service updates and notices of cancellation and disruption states: ‘ Due to technical issues, CalMac will not be using the Irish Berth at Ardrossan with immediate effect. As a result, there may be disruption to the service in the event of adverse weather.’

Jamie Greene MSP who has also been contacted by residents after strong easterly winds caused disruption to services last week said: ‘These reports raise some serious concerns as it appears that without the use of the Irish Berth, the Ardrossan ferry can only dock under certain weather conditions, which massively impacts the reliability of the service.

‘The Ardrossan to Brodick route is a lifeline route for people to travel, work and access public services. Three days of speculative cancellations because the ferry can no longer dock in harsh weather just isn’t acceptable; it disrupts lives and impacts local businesses.

‘The Scottish Government must make clear why neither vessels cannot dock in harsh weather without the Irish Berth, why it is currently closed and what long-term contingency plans are in place if the berth is out of operation for long periods of time.

‘I will be raising this matter in the Scottish Parliament at the next opportunity.’

In looking at resolving the issue with the PAS, CMAL – owner of the vessels and ports – and the PAS manufacturers have visited Brodick and have assessed the PAS to look at options availabel to them. A spokesman from CalMac said: ‘We are also discussing with them alternative short term options to berth the vessel without the crew gangway to protect the weekend timetable. In addition we are also exploring sourcing a new crew gangway design as a backup’.

The movable PAS entrance from the walkway to the ferry.