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Call to snap up catamaran for Mull ferry route

Mull residents want CMAL to buy them a catamaran similar to those used by Pentland Ferries.
Mull residents want CMAL to buy them a catamaran similar to those used by Pentland Ferries.

People on Mull are urging the Scottish Government to snap up a new ferry currently under construction in Indonesia.

Community groups, businesses and islanders want Cmal (which owns the CalMac fleet) to acquire the catamaran similar to the vessel owned by Pentland Ferries operating to and from Orkney.

It follows the publication of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s inquiry into the CalMac ferry fiasco that has left two boats incomplete and put further pressure to an already ageing and limited fleet of boats.

The catamaran, due to be completed in Spring, has an option that it can be sold on the open market if a buyer can be found.

Joe Reade, chairman of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, said: “Cmal has an excellent and immediate opportunity right now to bring a much-needed new vessel – which is already built – into the fleet, and satisfy the task they were given by the Scottish Government to buy from the used market as soon as they can.

“Progress has been torturously slow and for some reason they seem unwilling to take this opportunity.

“This ferry can fit our piers, it can cope with our seas, it can carry all the cars and people necessary. Despite it being an excellent option, Cmal is in danger of letting the islands down by not acting quickly enough and there is a real risk now that this boat will be sold elsewhere as Cmal dithers and delays.”

The Mull group believes the catamaran will address congestion on the route.

It is available for a fraction of the price of any ferry recently bought by Cmal, on the market for around 10% of the £110 million being paid for each of the partially completed dualfuel ferries being built in Port Glasgow.

Sandy Brunton, convenor of the Mull and Iona Community Trust, said: “Now it’s up to the government to instruct Cmal to complete the purchase.”

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC), supported by other island groups have written to Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse, asking him to buy the ferry.

They say they are only asking him to honour a promise repeated many times – that if a suitable ferry could be found on the used market, Cmal would be instructed to buy it.

The ferry is similar in design to the Alfred that is operated by private ferry company Pentland Ferries. It is widely appreciated for its reliability in poor weather and burns one third of the fuel of an equivalent CalMac ferry.

A Cmal spokeswoman said: “The catamaran in question has been designed and is being built primarily to operate on Pacific Island routes.

“We have engaged significantly with the seller of this vessel over many months and have requested full details of its compliance with UK Flag State regulations.  All our vessels must comply with UK Flag State regulations to secure a passenger certificate.

“It is clear the vessel would require significant modification to meet the Flag State standards. To date, the seller has been unable to provide assurances on meeting these. Until the standards are met, the vessel remains non-compliant and is not currently a viable option.

“We will continue to explore all viable solutions in the second hand ferry market, having considered more than 100 candidate ferries throughout 2020.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman added: “We have been engaging with the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee on this matter.

“Cmal, as the prospective buyer, has been engaging with the vessel sellers. We are keen both parties work together to resolve technical, regulatory and commercial matters and we are following progress closely.”

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