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The ever spiralling cost of repairing the CalMac ferry fleet has risen to more than £17.3 million a year, new figures reveal.
Since the start of the current CalMac ferry franchise in 2016, the total cost of repairs was £83.6m, with some of the sharpest increases being for ships running beyond their original 2o-year lifespan.
One of the steepest increases in repair costs is on the seven-year-old MV Catriona which sails between Lochranza and Claonaig and Tarbert, which has increased by 197 per cent.
The cost of repairing Arran’s main ferry, the 29-year-old MV Caledonian Isles, rose by 73 per cent and the 37-year-old MV Isle of Arran has increased by 61 per cent. The average age of the 31 vessel fleet is 22 years.
While the boats are operated by CalMac, they are owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) with claims this week the company recently extended the lifespan (on paper) of the vessels from 20 to 35 years to give a better gloss to CMAL’s balance sheet.
Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour’s island spokeswoman, said this week that the SNP’s approach to the CalMac ferries is ‘shambolic’ and was caused by ‘years of neglect’.
She said: ‘The SNP has abandoned island communities and left Scotland’s lifeline ferry fleet to rust. Years of neglect have left Scotland’s ferry fleet in a pitiful state and its catastrophic mismanagement of the Ferguson’s Marine contracts made a bad situation worse.
‘It is little wonder costs are soaring when we are relying on vessels a decade past their lifespan. The SNP’s shambolic approach to shipbuilding has failed islanders, workers and taxpayers.’
A spokesperson for CMAL said: ‘All of CMAL’s leasing agreements are over a 30 year period, and the vessels are depreciated as such. If vessels are properly maintained, there is no reason why they cannot operate effectively, efficiently and safely for more than 40 years.
‘CMAL has a significant plan of vessel and harbour investment underway, backed by a £580 million commitment from the Scottish Government for an initial five-year period from 2021 to 2026. We’d like to see at least the same amount invested again in fiscal years 2026-2031, which would mean over the 10 years from 2021-2031, the average age of the fleet could be brought down to 15 years.’