Arran Banner letters – week 12

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CalMac an apology


I share the frustration of Arran residents who are seeing disruptions to their service because of technical problems with the MV Caledonian Isles.

The vessel is now 27 years old and sourcing parts to repair problems that arise is a huge challenge for us. It is well documented that we were expected to have a new vessel on this route two years ago. While we were working on an original lead-time of six weeks from Europe for a replacement mooring winch for the Caledonian Isles, we now believe this will be much shorter and we can bring the vessel back into full service earlier.

However, the suggestion that there are suitable vessels somewhere in the world ready to be leased or bought and take over the Arran run is unfortunately not true. There are no second-hand ferries available which meet the unusually shallow draft requirements on the west coast, interface into our port infrastructure and which can operate in our challenging waters. We have continually searched the market along with CMAL in the last six years and brokers are fully alert to our needs. While a number of vessels have been put forward, they have either not met the demanding requirements of UK class or the work required to get them to a class level would be uneconomic or unachievable.

In the meantime, I can only apologise to the Arran community for the disruptions that are taking place, pledge that we are working with all partners to ensure the ferry is fully operational as soon as possible and assure you that we engage with communities on a daily basis around the disruption that occurs.


Robbie Drummond,

Managing Director,

CalMac Ferries Ltd,


Shutdown Arran

The ensuing coronavirus crises demands responsible action to arrest the threat of nationwide infection. Shutdown governmental decisions have been made elsewhere in the world. Has anyone dared to suggest the worth of ‘Arran shutdown’ and the shutdown of all Scottish Islands?

Of course it would demand much planning and much inconvenience but it may be argued that the benefits of shutdown far outweigh the fears of the first possible confirmed corona casualty on Arran and the other West Coast islands.

This is NOT a selfish idea. Think about it.


John G Webster,

Kings Cross.

Coronavirus ferry action


Apologies if I am stating the obvious, but I feel compelled to write to appeal to the powers that be – Arran Ferry Group, CalMac, medical professionals and our MP to ensure they get together to discuss and implement a strategy for coping with the critical issue of the coronavairus.

It is inevitable it will be arriving on Arran by way of the ferry. There are people on the island who are at very high risk from this pandemic, in that they are elderly, suffer from diabetes, have lung disease, are using drugs to inhibit their immune system etc., and they must travel by ferry for life saving treatment. Unless specific arrangements are implemented this situation forces our most vulnerable to expose themselves to a high risk of infection.

Last week I watched a member of CalMac staff wipe the tables in the dining area with a damp cloth with no sanitiser, then proceed with same cloth to clean the food trays and continue wiping tables throughout the dining area with the same cloth.

Could CalMac gain permission to allow the most vulnerable to remain in their car (a letter from GP). Can the ship be sanitised before and after every trip? Proper sanitising in eating and drinking areas, toilets and all hand rails etc. and could we have someone with hand sanitiser for every passenger, at entrance to the ship – the government can fund for addition cost.

We will be having a large influx of visitors for Easter. Can we please have a response ASAP.


Jan Herbert,


Rigorous regime

Since writing this letter Jan has received the following reply from CalMac

Dear Ms Herbert,

In the first instance let me assure you that CalMac takes its responsibility for handling the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously.

We have a full COVID-19 response team in place which meets every day, and which has been working to ensure our customers and staff are already responding to the latest government instructions surrounding the current outbreak. We work closely and frequently with Transport Scotland, the Scottish government’s resilience team and Health Protection Scotland to stay on top of the latest advice and guidance from government and health officials.

In terms of the wiping situation, we are looking into what happened to see if our policies were followed. We have a new rigorous regime in place which means that all ‘high touch’ surfaces are wiped using specialist cleaning equipment every two hours on the vessels. There may not be a visual spray being used but the cloths are treated with specialist antibacterial cleaning materials that make them suitable for all food-related surfaces such as tables and trays.

In terms of travelling on the car deck, our hands are tied by existing legislation. The only circumstances in which we could take your husband to the mainland and back on the car deck would be if he were in an ambulance. Allowing passengers to remain in their vehicles is a matter that resides with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). At this time, CalMac does not have the authority to allow passengers to remain in their vehicles on our major vessels unless expressly authorised by the MCA. We will work closely alongside the MCA and we will keep you posted of any future developments they make in this area.

I hope I have reassured you around our cleaning regime and apologise that there is nothing we can do in relation to hospital visits. I would suggest you make contact with the NHS to see if there is anything further they can offer you in terms of ambulatory treatment or any other arrangements.


Robert Morrison,
Operations Director,
Calmac Ferries Ltd.

Ferry farce

Below is a copy of a letter sent to Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson.


I wrote to you in December last year pleading with you to intervene in the developing fiasco which is the CalMac ferry service to the Isle of Arran. I hope you received this letter, I have not yet had an acknowledgement.

Since then of course, the service has been reduced to even more of a farce by frequent breakdowns of pieces of equipment on the MV Caledonian Isles. In recent weeks we have had a faulty exhaust valve on the port engine, a burst hydraulic pipe on the bow visor, and currently a cracked gear box casing on a mooring winch which will take up to six weeks to repair. And for the last 24 hours, the mezzanine decks were out of action reducing the capacity on those sailings which did take place.

And recently, a piece of navigation equipment on shore failed so that the ship could not sail in the dark.

I am sure that the crew and engineers are doing all they can to keep this aged vessel in service and I have no quarrel with them, only admiration. However, the Scottish Government and the senior management of CMAL should be hanging their heads in shame that in the 21st century, in a supposedly first world country, such a state of affairs is allowed to continue with no apparent effort to remedy matters in the long term or, more importantly, provide immediate answers to the problem of reliably getting people to and from the island.


Mrs E A Ross,


Life after stroke awards


I am writing to you on behalf of a charity that is close to my heart – the Stroke Association.

Sadly, my family knows all too well the pain that stroke can cause after we lost my mother to this cruel condition. The thing with stroke is its suddenness; in an instant lives are changed forever. I’ve since found out that many people who survive a stroke can go on to make remarkable recoveries. Thanks to organisations like Stroke Association people can, and do, rebuild their life after stroke.

This brilliant charity hosts the Life After Stroke Awards every year. The awards really are a fantastic event and recognise the incredible and courageous achievements of people who are living with the effects of stroke. I’m writing to urge your readers to nominate someone who they know who has gone on to rebuild their life after stroke. This might be a stroke survivor, their loved ones who care for them or communities and organisations who help people rebuild their lives after stroke.

To nominate go to:

You can also email or call on 01527 903 927.

With your help we can shine a light on some truly inspirational people.


Kaye Adams,

Presenter and journalist.