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CalMac and Peel Ports Group in Row on Safety of Ardrossan Harbour after £15.5m Payment

29th April 2024
Passengers embark CalMac’s main Arran ferry, Caledonian Isles at Ardrossan, North Ayrshire before sailing for Brodick as seen in this file photo. The ferry Afloat add is in dry-dock, however the Firth of Clyde route is otherwise operated by MV Isle of Arran and chartered MV Alfred but out of Troon.
Passengers embark CalMac’s main Arran ferry, Caledonian Isles at Ardrossan, North Ayrshire before sailing for Brodick as seen in this file photo. The ferry Afloat add is in dry-dock, however the Firth of Clyde route is otherwise operated by MV Isle of Arran and chartered MV Alfred but out of Troon. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

Scottish government owned Caledonian McBrayne (CalMac) has condemned one of the country’s key port operators which it said has left a major ferry port harbour in an "unacceptable" condition. The situation was putting safe operations at risk despite CalMac paying out nearly £15.5m in fees over the last decade.

CalMac, the UK’s largest domestic ferry operator, has made a rare broadside over the conditions it has to operate in Ardrossan Harbour. The ferry company having delivered a damning indictment on the state of the port in North Ayrshire. The 55 minute service provides a crucial lifeline to and from the Isle of Arran and in a response to a campaign to nationalise Clydeport to bring the ports and harbours on the River Clyde into public ownership.

The ferry company’s interim chief executive, Duncan Mackison, has criticised the state of Ardrossan Harbour which is owned by Peel Ports Group, the UK’s second largest port company. Commenting on the facilities he said: "have not been maintained to an acceptable standard" and he added that there has been a lack of investment.”

In addition, he said in a message seen by The Herald, that the condition of Ardrossan Harbour "is all the more unacceptable" because of the £15.48m that CalMac has paid to Peel Ports for the use of its berths among them the ‘Irish’ berth as Afloat previously reported.

More here on the dispute between the ferry operator and port group.

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!