A short news snippet from Inverclyde Today learned that Calmac ordered a new ferry for the Kennacraig to Islay route. Alternative options are therefore ignored by Calmac and traditional ships will continue to sail the Islay route.
A quote from Inverclyde Today: A Â£21 MILLION ferry has been ordered for Caledonian MacBrayne's routes to Islay. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) today announced the order which has been placed with the Remontowa yard in Gdansk, Poland. Delivery of the 89.90m long vehicle/passenger ferry is expected in spring, 2011. The vessel will be capable of 16.5 knots and designed to carry 550 passengers, up to 88 cars, as well as coaches and commercial vehicles. The ship will also be capable of carrying dangerous goods. The shipyard build cost is Â£21.75 million; additional overheads such as project supervision, vessel spares, training and delivery into service bring the total cost of the project to Â£24.5 million.
CalMac's Managing Director, Lawrie Sinclair said: "The new ship will enable CalMac to provide the additional capacity on the routes from Kennacraig to Islay which is required to meet the demand of a booming economy and to offer improved services to local residents, businesses and tourists. CalMac has consulted extensively with the local community to establish the best level and type of service to be offered. It was very important that we took every opportunity to consult and explain the type of vessel we had in mind and the facilities she will have. The community became involved in the process of achieving the desired outcome at an early stage, and we are confident that we will be able to operate a very high level of service with the new vessel, along with another ship, giving the island the level of service it needs."
Apparently a very realistic and much cheaper plan of Professor Alan Baird, which would at the same time increase capacity on the Islay route, never reached the management of Calmac or was ignored by the traditional government funded company. Professor Alf Baird, head of the Maritime Research Group at Napier University, claimed that for Â£20m CalMac could purchase two medium speed (18-knot) catamarans, similar to the new Pentland Ferries ship, due to begin operations between Caithness-Orkney from 2008. This ship will carry 250 passengers (more passenger capacity can be added if needed) plus over 70 cars or 32 cars plus 8 trucks, at 18-knots across the Pentland Firth which is a notoriously difficult stretch of water. Being medium speed this ship type has the same operating parameters as a CalMac monohull. Ship length/beam/power for catamarans can be adjusted as required at design stage, to meet market needs. Each Catamaran would require a crew of around 14-16, which is around half that required for CalMac's proposed monohull. This is a very economical solution for any relatively short, yet exposed route of 10-20 nautical miles." This could very well be a missed opportunity for Islay, only time can tell.