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Clyde Freight-Only Service Introduced on Temporary Troon-Brodick (Arran) Route

17th January 2023
CalMac have launched a freight-only and temporary service on the Firth of CLyde between Troon and Brodick on the Isle of Arran to support businesses and ensure essential supplies are delivered. Above lorries being loaded onto MV Hebridean Isles for the day's 1st freight run.
CalMac have launched a freight-only and temporary service on the Firth of CLyde between Troon and Brodick on the Isle of Arran to support businesses and ensure essential supplies are delivered. Above lorries being loaded onto MV Hebridean Isles for the day's 1st freight run. Credit: CalMac-facebook

Scotland's largest domestic ferry operator, CalMac has introduced freight-only sailings on the Firth of Clyde with a temporary route between Troon and Arran so to provide support to the island.

According to a press release, following trials last week, CalMac announced freight only sailings operating twice-daily but only between Monday-Friday had began yesterday. The dedicated freight only service on the Troon-Brodick route is operated by the MV Hebridean Isles (Afloat adds is a veteran of the CalMac fleet having entered service in 1985 and normally operates on the Kennacraig (Mull of Kintyre)- Islay routes). Also, see related newbuild replacement contract story.  

The introduction of the freight only service to and from Troon will also free up additional deck capacity on the MV Isle of Arran, which will continue to operate Ardrossan-Brodick, the established main route, while the route's second ferry Caledonian Isles, Afloat has tracked to a dry-dock in Greenock.

Businesses and hauliers are being contacted directly about using this temporary service, which will operate only on weekdays, whilst the MV Hebridean Isles is currently unable to utilise Ardrossan, as a result of technical defect (to the bow visor, according to The Herald) which currently precludes safe operation at that port.

All other customers will continue to use Ardrossan-Brodick and Claonaig-Lochranza, and are advised not to turn up at Troon as they will not be able to travel on these sailings, due to a lack of passenger facilities.

Don McKillop, Area Operations Manager for CalMac for Clyde, said: "These new, freight only sailings, are aimed at relieving pressure between Ardrossan and Brodick, by freeing up much-needed space for our other customers. This will be a temporary measure until MV Caledonian Isles is back from her scheduled annual overhaul.

"I must stress that the temporary Troon service is for commercial traffic only, it will not be carrying any passengers other than commercial vehicle drivers. We are contacting identified commercial customers to offer them spaces, including those with block bookings.

"This will relieve deck capacity between Ardrossan and Brodick and will allow the Tarbert-Portavadie route to resume, which had been cancelled to increase capacity on the Claonaig-Lochranza route."

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!