CalMac say sorry for ferry disruption

Robbie Drummond has been appointed as managing director of CalMac Ferries Ltd.
Robbie Drummond is managing director of CalMac Ferries Ltd.

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By Hugh Boag

Both the first minister and the boss of CalMac have said sorry in recent days to the long suffering Arran travelling public.

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: ‘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.’


While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed ‘great regret’ over the state of the lifeline Ardrossan to Brodick service a phrase echoed by Transport Scotland.

However there was some rare good news this week with the repair of the mooring equipment on the MV Caledonian Isles expected to be completed by Thursday putting it back into full service.

The apologies came after Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson raised the problems with the service directly with the first minister amidst increasing concerns about delays to the ferry’s replacement.

He told MSPs: ‘Arran has like much of my Scotland been buffeted by storms in recent weeks leading to numerous unavoidable cancellations to the island’s lifeline ferry services.


‘However, what has caused upset, anger and frustration to boil up amongst islanders are technical problems which have hugely worsened an already difficult situation.

‘In the last week alone the 27-year-old MV Caledonian Isles has had problems with its bow doors, mezzanine decks and a mooring winch gear box.

‘So many cancellations mean islanders cannot get to hospital for chemotherapy and elective operations. Hotels and tourist businesses are losing customers and some may go out of business.

‘Given this ongoing crisis, what assurances can the first minister give that additional ferry cover will be given to Arran throughout that period and beyond?

And he asked: ‘When will a long-term often promised comprehensive ferry replacement programme to renew a rapidly ageing fleet be put in place.’

Ms Sturgeon replied: ‘It is clearly a matter of great regret that passengers are facing disruption and I absolutely understand the frustration. While the vessel continues in service it does so with operating restrictions. The Master assessed the situation and introduced a wind speed limit restriction.

‘CalMac sourced a supplier with a replacement part in stock which will minimise the timeframe for repair to approximately seven days. In response to the disruption, CalMac are providing additional sailings on another route.’

Arran Ferry Action Group chairman Gavin Fulton described the situation on the island as a ‘fiasco’ adding: ‘The main problem across the network is that the boats are old and keep breaking down.’

He said there was a Scottish government ‘failure to procure enough new boats’ and that ministers were ‘playing politics with our lives’.

He added: ‘Suffice it to say that the Arran ferry service is the worst it has been in living memory and is unlikely to improve any time soon unless someone in the Scottish government takes decisive action now.’

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: ‘It is clearly a matter of great regret that passengers using this key service are facing disruption.

‘While the issue that has arisen is an operational matter for CalMac, ships masters are accountable for all decisions on board to ensure the safety of crew, passengers and the asset and, as highly skilled mariners we know they are having to exercise their very substantial professional judgement in the context of some of the worst conditions experienced in years.

‘The Scottish Government continues to work with CalMac, communities and business interests to ensure lifeline ferry connections are maintained and, where possible, enhanced.’

 

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond has said sorry to the Arran travelling public.