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Safety Issue Brings Busiest Scottish Ferry to a Halt - Angers Islander's

12th March 2020
Busiest ferry in Scotland: The ferry AFLOAT adds is the domestic island serving ferry Caledonian Isles berthed at Brodick, Isle of Arran yesterday. According to The Herald, Ardrossan-Brodick route is CalMac’s busiest route, carrying 841,000 of its 5.25m passengers last year. Busiest ferry in Scotland: The ferry AFLOAT adds is the domestic island serving ferry Caledonian Isles berthed at Brodick, Isle of Arran yesterday. According to The Herald, Ardrossan-Brodick route is CalMac’s busiest route, carrying 841,000 of its 5.25m passengers last year. Photo: Arran Webcam / M Williams The Herald -twitter

The busiest ferry crossing in Scotland, reports The Herald, has ground to a halt for safety reasons in a move that could lead to six weeks of disruption over a busy school holiday period.

Fifteen sailings between Brodick on the Isle of Arran and Ardrossan have been cancelled since Sunday and the first sailings of tomorrow have already been dropped because of a fault with the aging ferry's mooring equipment.

On Tuesday there were no sailings at all during the day, with the first seven journeys cancelled. Only the 4.40pm from Brodick and another to return to the island were able to operate as CalMac said it needed to berth on the island overnight.

The first sailings of tomorrow (Thursday, 12 March) have already been dropped with no news of any further crossings expected till after a 10am review. Travellers are being warned all services are liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

On top of that, a fault with both mezzanine decks, means the 1000 passenger and 110 car capacity of the vessel will be cut until repairs can be carried out.

The latest calamity to hit CalMac's MV Caledonian Isles has angered islanders who have demanded a long overdue temporary replacement to allow vital supplies and drugs to reach the largest island in the Firth of Clyde (Arran: dubbed Scotland in miniature).

It comes as CalMac bosses have said the £300m ferries "shambles" at Ferguson Marine's shipyard (see related last story) in Port Glasgow is causing knock-on 'major disruption' for island communities up and down the west coast of Scotland.

Dual fuel replacement Arran ferry Glen Sannox and her as yet unnamed sister were due to enter service in mid-2018 but the calamitous contract has doubled in price and work on the vessels won't be finished until at least 2022.

Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow was handed a £97 million contract to build two the ferries in 2015.

For more about the beleagured newbuild pair and performance of CalMac sailings in 2019, click here

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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