Ferry delays causing major disruption

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Ferry chiefs have warned that further delays to two new vessels being built arecontributing to ‘major disruption’ for islanders.

It came as Duncan Mackison, chief executive officer of David MacBrayne Ltd, and Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac Ferries, gave evidence  before MSPs at the Holyrood inquiry into the ferry fiasco on Wednesday.

The production of the two new ferries, including the MV Glen Sannox bound for the Arran route, has been struck with delays at the now nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, while the budget of the Scottish Government project has doubled.

Figures released last month revealed that more than 1,000 CalMac sailings were cancelled in 2019 because of mechanical problems.

In a joint statement to the inquiry, David MacBrayne Ltd and CalMac Ferries said that the Scottish Ferries Plan in 2013 has resulted in ‘vessels being worked longer and harder than ever before’ while ‘simultaneously ageing’.

The statement added: ‘As we have no spare vessels, any technical breakdowns result in major disruption for communities. While significant funds have been invested in vessel resilience, it is inevitable that the risk of technical disruption will increase as the fleet continues to age.

‘The two new vessels were due into service in 2018. They would have delivered much-needed additional capacity and improved resilience on the Ardrossan-Brodick and Uig-Tarbert/Lochmaddy routes, enabled a cascade of vessels to improve capacity on other routes including Oban-Craignure and Mallaig-Armadale, and reduced the average age of the fleet.

‘This would have also released a spare vessel that could have been used, subject to available funding, as a relief vessel which would have helped provide resilience to communities when technical breakdowns occur.’

The MSPs of the Scottish Parliament’s rural committee holding the inquiry visited the shipyard last month, as reported in last week’s Banner.