Cal Mac says this summer is lining up to be the company’s busiest ever.
The season started in earnest this Easter weekend on CalMac’s ferry routes up and
down the west coast of Scotland.
The peak tourist period is always a test for the 32 ferries that serve 51 ports on
49 routes, from Arran in the south to Lewis in the north.
During 2017, CalMac carried more than five million passengers, nearly 1.5 million
cars, some 80,000 coaches, and just under one million metres of commercial traffic.
Cal Mac’s new man at the helm, Robbie Drummond, says he is “acutely aware” of the
responsibility that comes with his new role.
The next seven months or so is a “challenge” as CalMac’s ageing fleet prepares for
another busy summer said the company’s interim managing director.
The average age of the ferries serving these routes is just under 22 years old and
CalMac’s fleet will again be stretched to its full capacity over the coming months.
Any issues with a vessel on one part of the network will have knock-on effects for
other routes, as boats need to be diverted or deployed elsewhere to keep the lifeline
The working life expectancy of a ferry deployed on routes like those on Scotland’s
western seaboard is around 25 years, so with nearly half of the ferries working these
routes already beyond that milestone – and having been used intensively during those
years of service – the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is significant.
It also takes longer to get older boats back into service when things do go wrong,
often due to the difficulty in sourcing parts across Europe.
The ferries deployed on CalMac routes are leased to the company by their owners,
Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), a separate and distinct company which
is wholly-owned by the Scottish Government. CMAL also owns, and is responsible for
maintaining, some of the many harbours Cal Mac uses for its services up and down
the west coast.
Robbie Drummond said: “We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest
time of year on our network.
“I know everyone here is ready and eagerly anticipating another successful summer
season, but I am also very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking
and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet,
eight of which are more than 30 years old now.”
Old ships pose “challenges” says Cal Mac’s new boss