CalMac's new man at the helm prepares for firm's busiest ever summer season
CalMac Ferries' new Interim Managing Director, Robbie Drummond, is looking forward to the company's busiest ever summer season, which starts in earnest this Easter weekend on CalMac's ferry routes up and down the west coast of Scotland.
CalMac's summer timetables take effect today (Friday, March 30) and the peak tourist period is always a test for the 32 ferries that serve 51 ports on 49 routes, from Arran in the south to Lewis in the north. During 2017, CalMac carried more than five million passengers, nearly 1.5 million cars, some 80,000 coaches, and just under one million metres of commercial traffic.
Drummond is acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with his new role, and the scale of the challenge that lies ahead over the next seven months or so, as CalMac's ageing fleet prepares for another busy summer and one that promises to be its busiest ever on record.
The average age of the ferries serving these routes is just under 22 years old and CalMac's fleet will again be stretched to its full capacity over the summer months. Any issues with a vessel on one part of the network will have knock-on effects for other routes, as boats need to be diverted or deployed elsewhere to keep the lifeline network running. Islay has already been adversely affected by such changes this week, with one of the two ferries that normally serve the island needing to be withdrawn to fulfil contractual obligations elsewhere.
The working life expectancy of a ferry deployed on routes like those on Scotland's western seaboard is around 25 years, so with nearly half of the ferries working these routes already beyond that milestone - and having been used intensively during those years of service - the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is significant. It also takes longer to get older boats back into service when things do go wrong, often due to the difficulty in sourcing parts across Europe.
The ferries deployed on CalMac routes are leased to the company by their owners, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), a separate and distinct company which is wholly-owned by the Scottish Government. CMAL also owns, and is responsible for maintaining, some of the many harbours CalMac uses for its services up and down the west coast.
Robbie Drummond, Interim Managing Director of CalMac Ferries, said: "We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest time of year on our network. I know everyone here is ready and eagerly anticipating another successful summer season, but I am also very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet, eight of which are more than 30 years old now.
"We're already dealing with the consequences of that reality and I'd like to apologise to everyone impacted by the temporary removal of the MV Hebridean Isles from the Islay services to cover for the MV Clansman, which is currently in dry dock awaiting the return of the propulsion unit sent to Denmark for repairs. We know that locals and visitors alike have come to expect the more regular service and greater capacity provided by two boats, so we understand people's frustration when one of those vessels needs to be deployed elsewhere.
"CMAL is investing in new ferries, with the Glen Sannox, launched in November, one of two new ferries that will join our fleet in the future. Until then, we will of course proactively manage as best we can with the current fleet, but I fear that it will, at times, cause issues on some of our routes."
CalMac's summer timetables are available here: Summer timetables
Notes to editors:
1) Further information about CalMac is available at www.calmac.co.uk
2) Caledonian MacBrayne and CalMac are trading names of CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL). Caledonian MacBrayne , CalMac and the lion rampant device are registered trademarks of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL)and are used under licence by CalMac Ferries Ltd.