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CalMac which is a Scottish Government-owned ferry operator, has been landed with a £5m repair bill as one of its oldest ferries built in 1993 has been side-lined until at least July due to rust.

The west coast ferry operator, which has the biggest domestic fleet in the UK, has warned of disruption across the Clyde and Hebrides network as a result of steelwork issues with the 31-year-old MV Caledonian Isles. The 5,531 gross tonnes ferry which serves on Firth of Clyde route of Ardrossan-Arran is one of the busiest of the network and is due to be replaced, in the meantime the route is operated by the even older Isle of Arran built in 1984.

The route's main ferry Caledonian Isles has been out of action since going for an overhaul at the start of January as Afloat previously identified to the Clyde dry-dock of Dales Marine Services in Greenock. (The ferry was subsequently tracked this month to Merseyside, at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead where the works continue). 

In response to the situation, The Isle of Arran Ferry Committee said it was pushing for contingency plans over the latest problem to hit CalMac's ageing fleet.

Commenting on the development concerning MV Caledonian Isles, The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said it "is deeply regrettable" and expected CalMac to come forward with details of the changes to timetables as soon as possible, to allow ferry users to plan ahead and keep disruption to a minimum.

The ferry was sidelined for over three months with further steelwork and engine difficulties this time last year with repair work then estimated at £1m. It had been due to leave the yard after an overhaul before issues with the engines, steelwork and bearings were noted by engineers.

For more on the steelworks, TheHeraldScotland has the story.

Published in Ferry

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

Ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) owned by the Scottish Government, could face an increase in fares for visitors to west coast islands as part of a major government review amid rising demand and costs.

According to newly-published proposals, suggest that a reduction in ferry fares by ministers made almost a decade ago to bring them into line with road travel costs, could be reversed for all users with the exception of island residents.

The development came as yet another delay to the hugely-late newbuild hybrid-powered ferry Glen Sannox, was signalled by Clyde based shipbuilder Ferguson Marine, which said its completion could be postponed beyond the latest delivery date set for May.

The Port Glasgow based shipyard cited the delay of the 102m ferry, originally to enter service in 2018 on the Isle of Arran route, was because of problems getting parts for the ferry’s novel dual-fuel system.

In response to the shipyard’s revised delivery date, the Scottish Government has described the announcement as “concerning and extremely disappointing”.

A review of west coast island ferry fares, is a plan that Ministers intend to examine, as part of a new strategy for links to the islands. This follows reduced ticket prices that led to a surge in demand and consequently resulted in overwhelming some routes at already busy peak times.

For more, The Scotsman reports, including reduced fares also applied since 2018 to Scottish east coast ferry firm, NorthLink (operated by Serco) serving Orkney and the Shetland Isles.

Published in Ferry

Twin newbuild ferries that are delayed and overbudget at a shipyard in Scotland and which are to serve Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) could be worth a “fraction” of the £360m taxpayers have spent on them when they are finally completed, MSPs have been told.

Speaking on the newbuilds to operate on the west coast, Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton had raised concerns as Wellbeing Economy Secretary, Neil Gray updated the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood on the works carried out on the dual-fuelled powered newbuilds Glen Sannox (as above) and Glen Rosa.

The twins, each 102m in length are being built at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow for CalMac so to bolster its ageing fleet. The new ferries (with a reduced passenger capacity of under 1,000: see story) are set to go into operation on the Ardrossan-Brodick (Isle of Arran) route on the Forth of Clyde. 

Leadship Glen Sannox and newbuild no 105, Glen Rosa which in recent months was given a name, have been beset by issues which have seen multi-year delays and cost overruns. Combined this has put the cost of construction to £360m, compared with the initial £97m price tag when the contract was signed for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and marine diesel fuelled ferries.

STV News has more on the shipyard saga, as the ferries which were to have entered service in 2018.

Published in Shipyards

As the shipyard ferry fiasco in Scotland continues, ministers in Edinburgh have come under fire as new estimates suggest the cost of the dual-fuel powered newbuilds could reach £400m.

The figure for the CalMac ferries, does not include the millions pumped into the nationalised shipyard Ferguson Marine to keep it operating, amounts to over four times the £97m contract cost for the two lifeline ferries to serve on Arran on the Forth of Clyde.

Both newbuilds, Glen Sannox and the recently named twin, Glen Rosa following a public vote, still await delivery at the Inverclyde shipyard, downriver of Glasgow.

Chief executive of Ferguson Marine, David Tydeman indicated that it will cost an extra £240 million to build the ferries on top of what was previously spent before the nationalisation of the shipyard took place in 2019.

As The Herald, which more on the story, reports that £83.25 million was spent on the ferries prior to the Scottish Government taking control of the shipyard firm with an additional £45 million on loan.

Published in Shipyards

Following the success of BBC's eight-part T.V. documentary about Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), the ferry operator is delighted to confirm a second series of ‘Island Crossings’ has been commissioned.

The first series which went behind the scenes, as Afloat reported, focused on the working lives of the crew and staff who serve west coast islands and communities across the network. It also focused on many of the people and communities which depend on CalMac, exploring their way of life and livelihoods.

Feedback about the first series from viewers, CalMac staff and communities has been very positive. Viewing figures when watched live and on BBC iPlayer has also been high.

Island Crossings is being created by IWC Media, the production company is also behind Susan Calman's Secret Scotland (Channel 5), Scotland's Home of The Year (BBC One) and Location, Location, Location (Channel 4). They are preparing to travel the network once again in a bid to gather stories and filming opportunities. The second series will feature many people and places across the network.

Robbie Drummond, Chief Executive of CalMac, said: "We are delighted with the success of series one, and are really looking forward to providing more insights into how CalMac operates. I really welcome the opportunity for us to give a true reflection of the lengths our people go to, to provide the best service we can for our communities and customers, highlighting the service that our colleagues provide every day even in challenging circumstances.

"Our customers constantly tell us how much they value and appreciate the people who work for CalMac, and Island Crossings is giving us the ideal platform to show viewers how committed they are to helping customers and island communities."

All of the episodes of series one of Island Crossings are available to view on BBC iPlayer here.

Published in Maritime TV

On the Firth of Clyde a Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry which has been plagued by technical problems for almost six months, has been seen at a berth in Ayr harbour.

The port of Ayr, operated by Associated British Ports is located south of Troon and also Ardrossan from where the ferry route connects Brodick, Isle of Arran.

The 1985 built ferry MV Hebridean Isles, one of oldest in the fleet, made for an unusual sight at Ayr as CalMac was forced to change the usual berthing arrangements for its ageing Arran ferries due to the bad weather.

Hebridean Isles was seen arriving into Ayr on the morning of Tuesday, 1 August in a passage from Troon which Afloat adds took around 40 minutes to complete and the ferry remains in Ayr this morning, 3 August.

The 494 passenger ferry, one of two serving Islay-Kennacraig, Isle of Mull (see above Afloat photo) was deployed to the Arran run but has  been unable to operate since February because of 'manoeuvrability issues'. This has forced CalMac to charter the 430 passenger and vehicle catamaran, MV Alfred, from private operator Pentland Ferries serving South Ronaldsay, one of the Orkney Islands.

The 3,040 gross tonnage Hebridean Isles has been berthed in Troon (see Arran 'freight' run) in efforts to continue to try and fix technical problems.

Due to the "lack of space" however, Hebridean Isles was forced to head for Ayr, as the bad weather was forecast on the Clyde which also restricted the use of berthing facilities at Ardrossan harbour.

A spokesperson for CalMac said: "Due to adverse weather forecast on Wednesday, August 2, MV Caledonian Isles will berth overnight on the Irish berth in Ardrossan tonight (Tuesday, August 1)".

"As a result, MV Alfred will relocate to Troon for overnight berthing tonight. Due to lack of space at Troon, and to accommodate the relocation of MV Alfred, MV Hebridean Isles has been requested to temporarily move to Ayr."

More from theAyr Advertiser on the Clyde route and the redeployment of the Isle of Arran, the second routine ferry on the Ardrossan-Brodick route.

Published in Ferry

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) will be the focus of a new fly-on-the-wall T.V. documentary series which will show the work and life aboard their services to Scotand's west coast island communities that it connects.

The first of the eight episodes of 'Island Crossings' is to be screened today, Sunday at 9pm on the BBC Scotland channel as Afloat previously reported.

CalMac which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, operates the largest ferry fleet in Britain of 35 (albeit in domestic waters) across 26 islands, running more than 500 sailings every day, operating 29 different routes. 

Among the extensive route network are those that connect Arran (see ferry trip) Harris, Islay and Skye and dozens of smaller islands to mainland Scotland and inter-island services. 

In tonight's opening episode, Ardrossan, the port for the Isle of Arran on the Firth of Clyde, is where port terminal assistants Kirsty and Debra -– who was only four weeks into the job at the time. They have to deal with complaints and concerns from thousands of passengers bound for Brodick Highland Games, including Kilbarchan Pipe Band members, as they are left waiting indefinitely after MV Caledonian Isles (see photo) breaks down (see CalMac's Arran service update) on the busiest day of the year.

The programme also features Isle of Mull youngster Oscar leave home, just as hundreds of other islander pupils have to do when they reach secondary school age. The school goers early on Monday mornings take the ferry crossing to spend the week on the mainland in Oban at the school hostel.

InverClydeNow has more on the new documentary series.

Published in Maritime TV

Scottish government owned ferry operator CalMac have confirmed the new timetable for the catamaran MV Alfred which is to serve on the Forth of Clyde route between Ardrossan and the Isle of Arran.

According to the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, announcement follows a a successful familiarisation period of recent weeks for the ferry which Afloat adds usually operates on the Pentland Firth between the mainland and Orkney Islands.

As previously reported Scottish ministers have chartered the 430 passenger /98 car carrying catamaran for nine months at a cost of £9 million.

The charter from Pentland Ferriesis in a bid to ease the growing ferry crisis on west coast and isles services where technical problems have beset ferries.

Below is a timetable for the catamaran operate until Thursday, 29 June:

Friday – Monday

Depart Ardrossan - 08:00, 11:30 and 16:15
Depart Brodick - 09:45, 13:15 and 18:00

Tuesday – Thursday

Depart Ardrossan - 08:00 and 16:15
Depart Brodick - 09:45 and 18:00

During this time period, CalMac has advised that all passengers will require to access the vessel via the catamaran's stern ramp.

More here on the catamaran's entry into service and for further service information, click the CalMac's website.

Published in Ferry

In south-west Scotland, repairs to the ferry Caledonian Isles in Brodick (Arran) forced the cancellation of two return sailings to Ardrossan on one of CalMac’s busiest routes.

CalMac said a secondary vessel, Isle of Arran, continued to operate on the route.

The operator said later the fault had been fixed and Caledonian Isles would return to service for (yesterday's 14 Sept) 19:20 sailing from Brodick.

CalMac had tweeted (also yesterday): “Due to an issue with the vessel’s starboard main engine which requires further investigations and repairs, the following sailings have now been cancelled: Depart Brodick - 13:55, 16:40, Depart Ardrossan - 15:20, 18:00.”

The fault is the latest to hit the 29-year-old ferry, which was out of service for more than two weeks at the start of the tourist season in mid-April because of an engine failure.

It should have been replaced by the hugely-delayed Glen Sannox four years ago, but the ferry being built at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow is not now expected to be completed until between March and May 2023.

Sea trials will follow, so the vessel may not be in service until autumn next year, leaving Arran at heightened risk of further disruption for another summer.

More The Scotsman reports of CalMac's ageing fleet. 

Published in Ferry
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