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Travelling with CalMac

Travelling Safely with Caledonian MacBrayne

Our ships and crew regularly participate in drills to rehearse their response in the unlikely event of an emergency. All safety equipment including lifeboats and marine evacuation slides are tested on a regular basis and in accordance with legislation. Our aim is to provide you with the best, and safest possible experience.

For your comfort and safety whilst travelling to your destination, we recommend you watch our passenger safety film and follow the guidance set out below.

If you see anything you think is unsafe during any part of your journey with us, please inform a member of staff.

Thank you for travelling safely with Caledonian MacBrayne.

Foot Passengers

  • Boarding is usually by the Passenger Access System or gangway; please hold handrails and avoid carrying heavy luggage.

  • Some decks feature raised or sunk lashing points and other trip hazards - watch your step at all times and use designated walkways where provided.

  • Hold the handrails where provided; due to the ferry design, stairways may be steeper than you are used to and can present a hazard, particularly if they are wet.

  • Pay attention on open decks and when using doorways with raised sills, taking care not to trip.

  • If your footwear is inappropriate (for example flip flops, cycling shoes and high heels are not well-suited to climbing stairs or crossing car decks), consider using a lift to access passenger areas where available.


  • Dismount before boarding the ferry and walk your bike onboard, along ramps, piers and slipways. Riding on these surfaces can be hazardous.

  • Ask a member of crew if uncertain where you can safely secure your bike on board.

  • Note that cycling shoes can slide easily on metal decks and polished wooden surfaces - please take extra care to maintain your footing.


If appropriate, the Captain of your ferry will make an announcement regarding the weather on passage at the start of your crossing. If you are concerned what the weather may be like during your crossing, we recommend you check the Met Office  website.

You can find out more about marine weather forecasts by looking at the Met Office's menu covering Specialist Forecasts. Up-to-date information on weather warnings and a live flood warning map can be found on the BBC website.

Your guide to travelling safely

Passenger safety is at the forefront of our operations. Our fleet and ports are regularly inspected and audited, both internally and externally, to ensure they meet relevant regulations, codes and safety standards. This section tells you more about being prepared in the event of an emergency and what is expected of you as a passenger travelling with us. Safety is our first priority and it is essential that you understand the emergency procedures we operate. There are simple steps that you can take to help keep you safe when travelling with us and these are outlined in the sections below. Please take the time to read them. If you have any questions, speak to a member of our Port staff or crew on board.

Safe travel advice

  • Please pay attention to safety announcements and/or notices. 

  • Ensure children are supervised at all times and please do not allow children to run or climb anywhere on board.

  • When moving around the ferry, please use the handrails provided and take extra care on stairs and when entering spaces with raised door sills to avoid tripping.

  • Our crews carry out day-to-day maintenance to keep our vessels safe. Please be aware that some equipment may be greased, oiled, or even freshly painted, which may cause damage to clothing / personal items. Please follow signage, where provided.*

  • Please use extra caution in strong winds or if the ferry is subject to movement - this can cause external doors to close suddenly - please keep hands clear of door enclosures

  • Should you feel unwell at any time, you may find the centre of the ferry is more comfortable, because it is subject to less movement than the bow, stern or side

  • If you feel unwell, or require First Aid, contact the nearest member of staff immediately

Be prepared

At the start of your sailing, a passenger safety announcement will outline the emergency procedures on board your ferry. Please give this announcement your full attention.

  • If you have any questions about your safety on board please speak to a member of crew.

  • Locate your nearest Assembly Station and make sure this is clear to all members of your party. An Assembly Station is indicated by a sign like this:

assembly or muster station image

  • The general emergency signal is seven or more short blasts followed by one long blast on the ship's whistle or alarm bells. If the alarm is sounded, remain calm and proceed immediately to an Assembly Station.

  • Members of the crew are trained to assist you. Please follow any instructions given by the crew and if you require help, please make this known to a member of the team. On arrival at the Assembly Station you will be given a lifejacket and shown how to put it on.

  • CalMac's fleet of ferries is equipped with a variety of safety equipment. These may include lifeboats, self-inflating life rafts, passenger escape slides, lifebuoys and fast rescue craft.

  • Follow the instructions of crew closely. Never attempt to abandon the ship unless specifically instructed to do so by the crew.

Vehicle drivers

  • Follow the signs to the port and vehicle marshalling area - at manned Ports you will be directed by staff. Please ensure you follow these directions, normal arrangements are sometimes changed to allow work to be carried out.

  • Drive within the posted speed limit, allow plenty of room to brake.

  • When waiting in the car lane (s) to board the ferry, do not start the engine until directed to move off to avoid unnecessary fumes.

  • Pay attention to other moving vehicles and wet, slippery and uneven ground surfaces and decks.

  • Never use a mobile phone whilst driving, embarking or disembarking.

  • Turn on dipped headlights before driving onto or off a vehicle deck - this will help make high-visibility clothing worn by our staff and vehicle deck markings more visible to you.

  • Please disarm your vehicle alarm, if possible, while safely locking the vehicle to avoid activation on passage. Refer to your vehicle manual for more details on how to disable your vehicle alarm.

  • Check that your handbrake or parking brake is applied before switching your engine on or off.

  • If travelling with a motorhome, campervan, caravan or trailer, read our important safety information before you travel.

  • Please be careful when leaving your vehicle, use designated walkways and avoid the paths of other moving vehicles.

  • Equipment on vehicle decks, such as mezzanine cabling, may be greased or oiled, which may cause damage to clothing and personal items. Please take care when walking past equipment when leaving and returning to your vehicle.*

  • Vehicle occupants must be prepared to leave their vehicles as soon as they are parked on board. 

  • Passengers are not allowed on the vehicle decks of certain ships while they are at sea.

  • When waiting to disembark, do not start the engine until directed to move off to avoid unnecessary fumes.

  • If driving a slow vehicle - please consider allowing other drivers to pass before leaving the Port.

In order to keep our passengers and crew safe, vehicles joining our vessels will be guided by our deck crew. The team use a range of hand signals and signs to guide you safely onto a space on the car deck. Please follow the instructions of the deck crew at all times and to proceed with caution whenever manoeuvring a vehicle on our vessels. Here are the various hand signals they use to help you prepare for your journey.

Gain Attention

Both arms extended horizontally parallel with deck

Gain attention

Move Forward

One or both arms bent with palm facing forward and forearms making slow movements towards the body.

Move forward

Move Backwards

Both arms bent with the palms facing outwards with the forearms making slow movements away from the body.

Move backwards

Move Left

Arm extended to indicate direction towards the signaller's left.

Move Left

Move Right

Arm extended to indicate direction towards the signaller's right.

Move right

Indicate Lane

Use relevant arm to indicate relevant traffic lane, sweep arm in fore and aft direction.

Indicate lane

Slow Down

Forearms held in from of body, parallel with the ground, make slow movements downwards.

Slow down

Relative Distance

Hand held apart in driver's view showing relative distance.

Relative Distance


One hand in the air, palm facing forward.


Emergency Stop

Both hands in the air, palms facing forward.

emergency stop

Apply Handbrake

Lifting motion with one arm, simulating lifting handbrake.


End of Operation

Thumbs Up.

End of Operation


*CalMac Ferries Ltd, or its affiliates, partners, suppliers or licensors are not liable for reimbursement of incidental property damages whereby such damage could have been averted. For full details on this, including exclusions/exceptional circumstances, please check out our Conditions of Carriage.

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