‘We won’t buy MV Pentalina to solve ferry crisis’

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Action group plea falls on deaf ears

A renewed plea has been made to Scottish ministers and other decision makers to again consider the MV Pentalina catamaran as a way of alleviating the ferry crisis in the west of Scotland.

Arran Ferry Action Group this week said it endorses the purchase of MV Pentalina and has called for urgent action to make this to happen.

However, buying the MV Pentalina was ruled out this week by Transport Scotland which said the vessel is too old to buy, however, they have not completely ruled out a charter.

But that would require a change of heart by the owner of Pentland Ferries, Andrew Banks, who pulled out of a lease deal with CalMac at the eleventh hour last year.

An action group spokesman said: ‘The current collapse in confidence in the reliability of lifeline ferry services throughout the Clyde and Hebrides network is a connectivity crisis. It must be recognised as such at the highest levels of government and urgent and decisive action must be taken.

‘There is a clear requirement for additional tonnage, beyond the addition of the MV Loch Frisa. The delays to the delivery of MV Glen Sannox and hull 802 are now having critical impacts on fleet availability. The continual search for available vessels has brought no viable options.’

The action group says there is a well-tried, tested and viable option sitting in Kirkwall – the MV Pentalina – which undertook sea trials across the west coast last June.

They say:

  • She is for sale.
  • She has MCA certificates.
  • She has been demonstrated to be suitable on the Ardrossan – Brodick/Campbeltown, Oban – Craignure and Ullapool – Stornoway routes.
  • She has comparable car capacity to MV Isle of Arran and would be entirely suitable for operation as the second vessel on the key Arran route.
  • She is younger than the majority of the major vessels in the CalMac fleet.
  • The key benefit of acquiring this vessel would be MV Isle of Arran would be released to the rest of the network as an additional vessel that could operate on any route.

‘We urge Transport Scotland Ferries Unit and the Transport Minister to engage urgently with Pentland Ferries regarding the purchase of this vessel. Not to do so at this point would represent an abandonment of the island communities you are supposed to serve,’ the spokesman added.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: ‘The Scottish government and Transport Scotland continue to charge CalMac Ferries Limited and Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited with seeking potential second hand tonnage to improve operational resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes. The previous charters of MV Arrow and recent purchase of the MV Utne – now MV Loch Frisa – is evidence of this ongoing commitment to improve and support the existing fleet in this way. The Transport Minister is live to the associated issues regarding additional tonnage. She intends to raise this matter with CMAL on Wednesday [two days ago] when they are scheduled to meet.

‘The MV Pentalina was considered for a possible charter in 2021, although it was withdrawn from availability by its owner before the formal agreement was signed. Due to the age of the vessel – approaching 15 years – we would not consider purchasing but remain open to exploring a charter option should this be reconsidered by the vessel owner. We would, of course, have to consider the terms and affordability of any arrangement.’

The MV Pentalina docking at Brodick during sea trials last year. 01_B25pentalina04