New Islay Ferry on the Way

It's been relatively quiet on our Islay Blog about Calmac Ferries. That doesn't mean that everything is plain sailing on the Kennacraig to Islay route. Every now and then one of the older ferries, the Hebridean Isles or Isle of Arran, experience problems and in busier times there is often a lack of capacity. And with the construction of more whisky distilleries on Islay the capacity will be stretched even further as a lot of additional freight will have to use the Calmac Ferries. And we shouldn't forget to mention the ever increasing number of tourists with their cars and motorhomes who visit Islay during the tourist season. It's therefore fantastic news that there is hope for more capacity in the near future, as you can read from the following article which was published in the Ileach last week:.

The next major ferry to be built for CalMac has been allocated to the Islay-Kennacraig route. In addition, adapting both the new vessel and the Finlaggan by ten metres will be considered, should Port Askaig, Port Ellen and Kennacraig be developed to enable larger ferries. These are among the recommendations contained in the recently released Transport Scotland Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan, which contained evidence that the Islay service was forecast to become the most “capacity constrained” of all the CalMac routes. Continue reading...

The report concluded that continued use of the Finlaggan, combined with a second vessel of the same vehicle deck capacity, would be able to provide adequate service until around 2022. However, should the plan’s commitment to a dedicated vessel for Colonsay be implemented, the additional capacity that would allow for the Islay-Kennacraig service would be sustainable until 2028..

The report highlighted that forecasts which had been made for the route were woefully inaccurate, with utilisation rates expected to be 68% for the July and August period in 2016. The actual level had been 79%, with a peak nine week period closer to 81%. It also identified the current situation of having to rely on existing, small and elderly ferries, creating a sustainability question on the Islay route, without new vessel investment..

Finlaggan Ferry leaving Port Askaig

The plan committed to an overall increase in the frequency of sailings to Islay, as well as a more equal spread of calls between Port Askaig and Port Ellen from the time of the report. This has now been put in place. The Annual Report, is in fact, the Annual Report for 2016, but only published and released earlier this year. It is the work of a tri-partite Network Strategy Group of Transport Scotland, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and CalMac Ferries..

Notable extracts from the 42 page report include:

“We are therefore recommending that the next major vessel produced by CMAL is initially allocated to the Islay services to replace the Hebridean Isles. This vessel would complement the Finlaggan, potentially more orientated towards a freight service (including the possibility of operating an overnight ser vice), but with sufficient passenger accommodation to meet anticipated demand. We are examining whether she could be designed with the intention of being lengthened in the future from 90m to around 100m if the ports were developed to enable larger vessels. (Finlaggan could also be considered for lengthening at this time). Details will be determined through consultation with the community and through the development of a business case.”.

And, “Looking further ahead, it is clear that, in order to satisfy forecast demand on the Islay services in the long-term, either substantial harbour works (enabling bigger vessels) and/or more frequent services would be required. There are a number of options, none straightforward and all likely to be costly...”.

Build time for a new ferry is regarded to be three years, so roll on 2021! In the meantime credit should be given to the Ferry Committee, which has lobbied hard to improve ferry provision for the island.

Tag: calmac ferry

published with kind permission of The Ileach