Difficulties being experienced by two vessels in the Cal Mac fleet which serve Arran have resulted in major disruptions to the services for Islay and Colonsay. Commenting on the Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:
“Whilst everyone is aware of the problems of success that Cal Mac has been experiencing, including record numbers of passengers and greatly increased sailings, the recent problems have highlighted the absolute necessity of getting more vessels into the fleet and have also indicated potential weaknesses in operations and management that need to be addressed.
No one doubts the extraordinary hard work of Cal Mac staff in trying to overcome current issues but equally no one in the affected community should have to experience, once again, severe problems that are causing considerable personal difficulties for those who rely on lifeline services as well as a threat to key local, late season, tourist events. Such impacts, leading to economic and social damage, are unacceptable.
It is good news that there are two new vessels under construction though the delay to these is unfortunate. However CMAL has, apparently, been scouring the world for several years for a suitable additional vessel as a stop gap and has failed to find one. Most people who rely on ferry services do not understand that failure and want to see it overcome.
Cal Mac also needs to look again with urgency at its maintenance and refit routines. They have an aging fleet but passengers need to be assured that maintenance routines are being undertaken with sufficient regularity and that refits are being planned at times that don’t impinge on busy periods.
Kenny Gibson MSP and I have requested a meeting with the relevant Ministers in the Scottish Government, which would include representatives of the local Ferry Committees on Arran and Islay. We hope to make Ministers aware of the huge difficulties caused by this situation and make some concrete suggestions for the future. Whatever happens these problems cannot be allowed to continue, let alone happen again.”