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CalMac to Make Trial Moves on Firth of Clyde Route By Pulling Out of Ardrossan after Safety Issues

7th February 2024
CalMac is to begin trial berthing MV Isle of Arran at Troon, as the veteran vessel which normally operates to Arran out of Ardrossan, is where safety and weather conditions have caused disruption.
CalMac is to begin trial berthing MV Isle of Arran at Troon, as the veteran vessel which normally operates to Arran out of Ardrossan, is where safety and weather conditions have caused disruption. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

Scotland's west coast ferry operator, CalMac is making moves to pull out of a key port in North Ayrshire, Ardrossan (serving Arran) in the wake of recent safety issues and adverse weather.

CalMac owned by the Scottish Government, has moved to begin trial berthing the MV Isle of Arran, which is the only ferry carrying passengers linking Brodick, Isle of Arran and Troon in South Ayrshire.

If successful, CalMac cite the ferry will begin operating the service on a "temporary" basis from Troon but there is concern that it is the first step to a permanent move for the services. The port of Troon operated by Associated British Ports (ABP), is where already the £1 million-a-month Scottish Government-chartered emergency ferry MV Alfred, a catamaran craft is based there on services.

There is no exact timetable outlined for how long the ferry might be based in Troon instead of Ardrossan which Afloat adds is operated by rival port operator, Peel Ports Group.

CalMac added that due to adverse weather forecast in the coming days and with strong easterly winds, this may led to the 1984 built not been able to berth at Ardrossan. The operator said it was "committed to maintaining the service throughout adverse weather".

Users on the Firth of Clyde crossing say any long period based in Troon would mean travelling times would increase from 55 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. In addition they have raised concerns over a potential reduction in sailings.

HeraldScotland has more on the developing ferryport scene.

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!