Calmac only have one ferry terminal at the moment in Islay which is Port Ellen. Port Askaig is owned by Argyll and Bute Council. The general feeling is that the new ferry will not be running to Islay anyway and that a reason will be found not to use it on the run.:)
The comments regarding the (unsuitability/inadvisability) of the Oban route overlook the fact that most locals visit the mainland for specific puposes . eg; Hospital appointments and shopping. Tarbert, whilst being a very attractive village, is not exactly the hub of 21st century living,.
Oban on the other hand has an excellent hospital, with associated clinics, and, the likes of Tesco, Argos et al for the shopping experience. It also offers good onward rail and road links to the rest of Scotland.
Kennacraig only excites the populace of Port Ellen due to it's established link with the mainland, Brian Mundell would quite happily run his trucks through Oban due to these roads being more accessable to commercial traffic.
OK, let's try a few sums. This is all very rough and ready, but bear with me!
The financial impact of switching all Islay ferries to Oban would presumably come from three main areas:
1. Closing Kennacraig and transferring the mainland 'end' to Oban.
2. Closing Port Ellen and transferring the Islay 'end' to Port Askaig
3. Increases in fuel costs because of the longer distance from Oban
Now let's try a very approximate estimate:
1. The main area of cost savings at Kennacraig would be staff costs. Although many staff will be part-time and/or on shifts, let's guess that there are, say 10 'full-time equivalent' staff at Kennacraig, earning an average of Â£20,000 per year. (I suspect that both these figures are on the top side). Add oncosts (NI, pension contributions etc) at, say, 20%, and that gives total staff costs at Kennacraig of 240K per year. The running costs of the buildings will not be great, but let's be generous here too, and estimate these at 60K. So toal recurrent savings produced by closing Kennacraig might be 300K per year.
2. Savings at Port Ellen are less easy to estimate, as they will be significantly offset by the need to staff Port Askaig for much longer hours than at present, so many displaced Port Ellen staff would probably be offered redeployment to Port Askaig. But let's be generous again, and hazard a guess that by closing Port Ellen, Calmac might save 50% of what they save on the mainland - 150K per year.
3. Fuel costs. Currently the full Calmac Islay timetable has 26 return journeys per week, each of an average of, say, 2 hours 15 minutes duration. That is a weekly total sailing time of 117 hours. This means an annual total of 6,084 hours. Knock off a few for Christmas and Hogmanay, and we can round it down to 6,000 hours sailing per year. A standard Calmac ferry such as LOTI has a fuel consumption of 500 litres of diesel per hour. That makes a staggering 3 million litres of diesel per year used on the Islay ferries!
Now the run from Oban is approximately half as long again as the journey from Kennacraig - 3 hours 30 mins sailing as opposed to 2 hours 15. So if the number of sailings remains unchanged at 52 per week, that will mean a straight 50% increase in fuel costs.
As far as I know marine diesel is now subject to fuel duty at the same rate as the stuff we put in our cars, so it's now over Â£1 per litre. So the impact on fuel costs of switching from Kennacraig to Oban could be an increase of Â£1.5 million
Overall then, this very crude calculation suggests that the impact of switching Islay ferries to Oban could be to reduce running costs by 450K per year and increase fuel costs by 1.5 million per year - a net increase of over Â£1 million per year.
Obviously the above is extremely rough and ready, not to mention abstract and theoretical, but even if the new ferry is more fuel efficient, and/or there are fewer journeys because of its greater capacity, it still looks like a no-brainer to me!
Finlaggan will run on "Heavy Fuel Oil" which is dirt cheap! Existing ferries running on Marine Diesel do not attract any fuel duty, running cost roughly 30p per litre. Redo the maths on that basis and then see where the savings come. Plus, the tidal set between Oban & PA is generally much more favourable than the same from W L Tarbert to Islay giving rise to fuel savings. WLT/Islay is generally a cross current whereas the Oban/PA option, with timetable management, will generally allow for favourable tides also giving savings on fuel usage.
As far as I am aware, staff are moved between Port Ellen & Port Askaig according to local needs, therefore I imagine that there would be little or no staffing element involved. Extra bonus (from Cmal point of view) is that they could (possibly)stand down from their responsibilities at PE.
Thanks Alastair - I stand corrected on fuel costs, and your information makes a huge difference, of course.
While taking your point about the attractions of Oban over Kennacraig/Tarbert, and the issue of the tides, there is still the issue of capacity. AFAIK the Finlaggan is scarcely bigger that the present ferries, so with a c.3.5 hour sailing time from Oban, it would not be easy to maintain the current ten single trips per day.
Another factor has come into play since this thread was going a couple of months ago, of course, in the shape of confirmation that the Finlaggan will not be able to berth at Port Ellen. Whether this is cock-up or conspiracy, it is now hard to avoid the suspicion that ferry servies might in the future be concentrated on Port Askaig, with Port Ellen left to the barley boats and maybe a RO-RO freight-only service.
As for Oban, we must assume that the FInlaggan will be able to berth there, but presumably not (yet) at Colonsay. If engineering works were to start at Scalasaig any time this year, maybe the Oban theorists might be right........
Meeting on Thursday night in Port Ellen announced work will be done at the pier that will take the new ferry. Not the big elaborate plans originally produced but enough to let the ferry and barley boats use the place at the same time. Looks promising.:)
The Maggie is one of Ealing studios lesser known comedies. A wily old skipper of a Western Isles 'Puffer' and his motley crew lead all who come into contact with them a fine old time! Many scenes on Islay!