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Hebrides News



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 network running.


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

2 April 2018