Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has branded the state-run company that owns the country’s ferries and ports “unfit for purpose”.
Mr Sarwar called on ministers to take urgent action over the Calmac service that has seen island communities suffer regular delays and cancellations.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) owns Scotland’s ferries and ports, while Calmac runs the ferry service.
After meeting with Calmac staff at Largs, Mr Sarwar has spoken out about the service.
I met Calmac staff and travellers today.
The SNP’s lack of a coherent plan or strategy is letting our island and coastal communities down.
We need a fundamental review of our ferry services to deliver the right routes at the right times, with the right infrastructure. pic.twitter.com/UzXY2SU7pa
— Anas Sarwar (@AnasSarwar) July 30, 2021
He told The Herald: “The CMal Calmac model just hasn’t worked. CMa is not fit for purpose. It has failed. It needs to go.”
Half of the fleet operated by Calmac is more than 25 years old and more than 1,000 ferry sailings have been delayed over the past five years because of mechanical issues.
Recently, a freight vessel joined the fleet on a short-term charter to relieve the pressure on the lifeline Stornoway to Ullapool route.
Mr Sarwar said: “Clearly, the system is broken and it requires an urgent review that is led by the voices of island and coastal communities about getting the right routes, at the right times, with the right infrastructure.”
CMal explained their lifeline ferry services provide “considerable value”.
A spokesman said: “We are the only organisation in the public sector in Scotland that possesses the professional and technical skill, expertise and experience to manage large vessel and harbour infrastructure projects.
“This professional resource is critical to maintaining and improving Scotland’s ferry infrastructure.”
The Scottish Government commented that “they are grateful for the hard work of its board and staff to help support our ferry network.”
An independent review of current legal structures and governance arrangements around the provision of ferry services is under way.
Skye Triangle ferry route upgrade
Meanwhile, Highland Council has announced that RJ McLeod Limited has been awarded the contract for the upgrade of Uig Ferry Terminal on the Isle of Skye.
Uig Port is owned by the Highland Council and forms part of the Skye Triangle ferry route with Lochmaddy and Tarbet.
The ferry terminal will be upgraded with new infrastructure which will improve the ferry service and provide a safer experience for all ferry and harbour users.
Chairman of the Skye and Raasay committee, John Gordon said: “This significant investment in Uig harbour infrastructure is a very positive development for Skye and the whole Highlands so I am very pleased that the contract has been awarded and we can look forward to work starting on site.
“Since lockdown restrictions have eased there has been a surge in bookings for the ferry service and we expect this to continue. The works are essential to ensure the Uig terminal is fully operational with improved facilities to fully accommodate this growing demand for ferry travel.
“It will become an important travel hub with the potential to have significant spin off benefits to the local community.”
Construction work is expected to begin in September 2021 and it is thought the work will be completed in summer 2023.
There will be an outage period, required to construct the linkspan and outer roundhead, meaning there will be no ferry service to and from Uig between September 12, 2022 and February 3, 2023.
Calmac is working on an alternative ferry provision from Ullapool during the closure period of Uig to provide capacity for this vital ferry link.