Tales of derring-do, as Royal Marines scale the hull of MV Caledonian Isles
There were more than a couple of James Bond-like moments recently when Royal Marines carried out a boarding exercise on the MV Caledonian Isles.
The exercise took place on the ferry during one of her regular runs from Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran. MV Caledonian Isles is a 94-metre (308ft) ship which can carry 1,000 passengers and 110 cars - the Ardrossan to Brodick route was Caledonian MacBrayne's busiest passenger route in 2014, transporting 715,048 visitors and islanders.
Caledonian MacBrayne has been exercising boarding capabilities with the Royal Marines from 43 Commando since May last year. These exercises usually take place a couple of times a year and the MV Caledonian Isles presents a perfect platform for the training due to her high freeboard - the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level - which allows the commandos to simulate boarding a large cargo vessel, for example, in the case of anti-piracy operations in theatre, when they could be required to climb to a significant height.
The passengers love the excitement of it. An announcement is made in advance to let them know what's going on, primarily to avoid anyone being alarmed - but it always causes great interest and space at the windows to watch is definitely at a premium.
From a ship handling perspective, the ship's master is able to monitor progress from the bridge and has constant comms both with the boats on the water alongside, as well as the small contingent of Royal Marines on board. The overriding concern is always one of safety, not only for the ship, passengers and crew, but also for any small craft alongside in a situation like this - as well as those scaling the hull of the ferry; which is quite unusual. Ultimately, the master has responsibility for them all.
CalMac is pleased to cooperate with the Royal Navy to give them as realistic a training exercise as possible. The work involved around organising and carrying out a live exercise at sea provides great planning and coordinating experience for CalMac's own crews so everyone involved benefits.
The Caledonian Isles is the company's largest vessel operating in the Clyde area and is within easy reach of HMNB Clyde where 43 Commando Royal Marines is based.
*Images courtesy of the Royal Navy.