Weather cancellations.

Declining winter reliability of Hebridean ferries is a concern on almost every island in the CalMac network. This week has seen a huge number of cancelled sailings, and conditions have indeed been pretty poor.

If we look back to earlier years however, the evidence backs up what the users are telling us – CalMac sailings are less reliable than they used to be, and services are cancelled in conditions that previously would not have been a problem.

This is an issue we have been pressing with CalMac for a long time. We have backed up the anecdotal evidence with met office data and detailed analysis of cancellation stats. You can see what we have presented to CalMac here:

On Monday of this week, something very unusual happened – an entire day of sailings was cancelled the evening before, on the strength of the weather forecast. However, it was clear to many folk that the actual conditions experienced through much of Monday were moderate, and the kind of winds that the MV Isle of Mull has sailed in before. We were contacted by several people complaining about this. So we emailed CalMac, to question why the whole day was cancelled, and to suggest that in light of observed conditions, the decision made the night before to cancel every sailing could be revisited. This was particularly pertinent, because Tuesday’s forecast was worse, and if an attempt to sail in a weather window was not made, we would be likely to be without service for 2 whole days.

Below is a pdf containing the email conversation that ensued. We are publishing it here so that a) we can reassure you that we are continuing to raise this issue b) you can see our arguments, and also CalMac’s defence of the decision. We’ve removed most email addresses and the names of those who do not normally represent the company in public.

It is also an opportunity to lay out our approach to this subject, which quite understandably can be a contentious one:

  1. CalMac’s Masters have the responsibility for the ship and everyone onboard on their shoulders. That is an onerous responsibility. We will never question a Master’s decision on a particular sailing, nor seek to have particular cancellation decisions undermined.
  2. The focus of our questioning is on three areas:
    a) Communication and consistency of cancellation decisions.
    b) The management, auditing and support given to Masters that enables them to make the best decisions.
    c) The equipment available to Calmac that has a bearing on reliability (ie ferries and piers)
  3. Weather-related ferry cancellations are a part of island life. But that does not mean that we cannot challenge CalMac management to find ways to reduce them.
  4. We will always be fair, objective and base all our arguments on real evidence. We will not use unsupported anecdote or assertions that cannot be backed up by objective evidence or data.

So – please read the attached (warning – it’s long!), and if you have any questions or comments about how we pursue this issue please do let us know.

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