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UK Ports Operator Offers Funding If Arran Ferry Switches Scottish Port

28th October 2016
CalMac's Arran ferry, Caledonian Isles entering Ardrossan on the Scottish mainland which could be relocated to Troon as proposed by port owner ABP Ports. In the background, Arran, seen between the lighthouse and the ferry which takes 55 minutes on the Firth of Clyde route. CalMac's Arran ferry, Caledonian Isles entering Ardrossan on the Scottish mainland which could be relocated to Troon as proposed by port owner ABP Ports. In the background, Arran, seen between the lighthouse and the ferry which takes 55 minutes on the Firth of Clyde route. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#PortRelocation? - A large UK ports operator proposes to donate community funding to the Isle of Arran, if the island’s lifeline ferry service on the Firth of Clyde relocates to one of its owned ports, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The ports company, Associated British Ports (ABP) plans to create an Arran Community Fund, which will generate £50,000 a year, or around £1,000 a week, to benefit the island community. As part of an original deal (see below), the ferry port on the mainland at Ardrossan that serves Brodick (Arran) operated by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) would transfer to neighbouring Troon.

As previously reported by Afloat.ie, Troon was last in use by P&O Ferries to Larne, until seasonal fast-ferry services closed in 2015, leaving an existing Larne-Cairnryan service on the North Channel to compete with Stena Line's Belfast-Cairnryan alternative.

It is claimed by ABP that the current ferryport, Ardrossan, also on the Ayrshire coast, is dogged by weather conditions that frequently exceed the capabilities of the port and result in a significant level of service cancellations. Approximately 150 crossings were cancelled last year, causing major issues for the travelling public and tourists trying to visit the island, dubbed ‘Scotland in miniature’.

The Ardrossan-Brodick route is served by Caledonian Isles and additional capacity in summer by Isle of Arran that also operates a seasonal-route out of Ardrossan to Campbeltown, Mull of Kintyre. This summer was the route’s first season as a ‘permanent’ service after a three year pilot programme.

ABP has already announced plans to invest £8 million in Troon, where the state-of-the-art passenger ferry terminal would serve the Isle of Arran. In contrast to Ardrossan, comparable journey times using Troon’s sheltered harbour offers the prospect of a reliable service for islanders, largely unaffected by adverse weather conditions.

Troon also offers improved road and increased rail connections, with access to the upgraded A77/M77 motorway and four trains per hour to Glasgow.

Afloat this summer featured the route from Ardrossan to the island’s ferryport at Brodick, to include coverage of the redevelopment work at the terminal on Arran by operator, CalMac.

The public funded ferry company which serves the Hebrides & Clyde Isles extensively, won the EU tender ferry bid from Transport Scotland in a £900m contract for the next eight years which began at the start of this month. It should be noted ABP Ports port relocation formed part of its application among those submitted for the Western Isles ferry contract.

The next generation of a pair of larger ferries for CalMac under construction on the Clyde, in which as least one vessel is destined for the Arran route. According to ABP, these newbuilds will too be able to use Troon’s existing 160-metre berth, which is well equipped to handle the 1,000 passenger/ 127 cars/16 HGV's (or combination) ferry sisters.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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