Arran Banner letters – week 44

Letters.

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CMAL aware of need to invest

Sir,

J Patrick Maclean’s claim that the ‘Scottish Government throws unlimited amounts of money at CMAL’ is fanciful, (Letters, Arran Banner, October 16).


CMAL must apply for its funding from the Scottish government every year. Bids are based on informed projections for work to be delivered during the financial year. Vessel and harbour projects are prioritised according to need. Priorities are made across the public sector and we understand transport needs are balanced against that of education, health, justice etc.

I am very aware of the need to invest in ferry and harbour infrastructure, and to reduce the average age of our vessel fleet. No-one at CMAL needs to be reminded. Our people are professionally qualified and experienced maritime engineers, naval architects, shipbuilders; we understand the need for ongoing investment and innovation to protect, enhance and upgrade infrastructure. Our current three-year plan has ambitious plans to address vessel and harbour improvements. Plans that are, of course, dependent on funding.

All options for vessel type will be considered. It is important for communities to understand that options are based on multiple variable factors: passenger and freight demand now and future projections, comfort, safety, reliability, sustainability, efficiency, cost – to name a few. An important factor in all vessel choice for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) is compatibility with specific routes, as well as flexibility to meet vessel redeployment needs across the network. CMAL has a critical part to play in carbon emission reductions and green technology must be integrated with vessel design to help address the climate emergency. CalMac and Transport Scotland have operational and policy requirements too.

Decisions are influenced and driven by these various factors and vessel choice is not decided by CMAL alone. The decision to commission two 102-metre dual fuel vessels for the Arran and Skye Triangle routes was made jointly based on the requirements specified at the time. Once delivered, we’re confident they will provide an effective service.


Lifeline ferry services are critical. People are, rightly, passionate and vocal about current and future infrastructure. Opinions are always welcome, but it is important to understand the myriad of considerations that drive and influence decisions.

Yours,

Kevin Hobbs,

chief executive,

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL),

Port Glasgow.

 

Reserved ticket take-up

Sir,

I refer to the Arran Community Survey in the Banner last week.

Have I got this right? On the recommendation of the Arran Ferry Committee, CalMac have been reserving approximately 60 passenger tickets on every sailing each way since about July. These passenger tickets, I am led to believe, were to be kept for local people who had last minute hospital appointments or other equally serious last-minute reasons for travel.

  • Did CalMac ever notify the travelling public, about this praiseworthy service, on their website?
  • Has this availability of passenger tickets ever been advertised anywhere?
  • What has been the percentage uptake of this service?

If the uptake has been very low, which I would suggest is the case, what steps are being taken to re-allocate some of these places for tourism which will help the local economy and employment?

Yours,

Alastair Bilsland,

Brodick.

 

Where is cost analysis?

Sir,

We have an opportunity once again to consider a proposal by the ‘Scottish’ Salmon Company (SSC), now owned by the Faroese Bakkafrost, to install an industrial open cage salmon-farming complex off our north east coast.

Although slimmed down in size, most other key elements of the proposal remain the same, with the exception of the feed-barge, which contains accommodation, galley and an operations hub. Gone are the ‘revolutionary innovations’.  Effluent output is now reduced to the equivalent of a town of 6,000 people. Interestingly the site area is little changed, which might present the opportunity to grow capacity to the original 5,000 tonne proposal at a future point.

But what about the economics which for some might be an inducement? It is quite clear that open cage aquaculture, as practised in Scotland, can be harmful, and intrusive, to the inshore marine environment but how to assess the impact of this vs. the positive economic contribution?

Under circumstances such as these economists typically like to use ‘cost benefit analysis’ in order to weigh up a proposal and present a clear and reasoned basis to aid in decision making, a boon one might imagine if you were interested in winning the support of island residents and the wider North Ayrshire community.

Alas, in scrutinising the 40-page submission to NAC planners ’social and economic mmpacts of the SSC North Arran aquaculture development’ we see no such analysis.  In fact the document, in-spite of it being authored by two economists, makes no numerical attempt to present any impact on Arran’s existing economy and as for local economic ‘benefit’ there is mention of a staff requirement of up to six individuals (but most likely sourced from existing mainland bases). What is presented is a rather difficult to substantiate discussion of ‘value chains’, ‘OPEX’ and ‘CAPEX’.

However, in the absence of any sensible and objective approach to what we might gain vs. what this might cost, we can apply some common sense of our own.  We know that the island attracts in excess of 400,000 visitors a year delivering more than £60m of revenue, which supports very significant round the year employment plus seasonal employment, as well as providing the basis for support of the islands essential public, health and infrastructure services.

What is the likely economic impact of undermining the reputation of the island as a clean, wild and beautiful location by association with the proposed environmental intrusion and pollution? Just 5 per cent loss of opportunity would amount to £3,000,000/annum – which by comparison to the mention of six jobs-equivalent to be based elsewhere looks to be a deal firmly weighed in favour of Bakkafrost.  Perhaps that’s why there is no ‘cost benefit analysis’ presented?

Yours,

Rob Cowieson,

Whiting Bay.