Changes to ferry travel under Phase One of Coronavirus Route Map

CalMac have today announced minor relaxations to the types of ferry travel that are permitted, in line with phase one of the Framework for Decision Making. These changes are small, and like the rest of Scotland, travel advice remains broadly unchanged.

It will now be permissible to use ferries for the purposes of visiting immediate family. But the general advice remains that this should only be done if essential; you should limit how far you travel, and stay at home as much as possible. The national rules on this type of travel apply to us all, and you should read them before travelling to see family. See the links below.

It is also now permissible for construction workers to use ferries, inline with the specific construction industry guidance. Essentially this means that construction workers preparing for re-opening of sites and Covid-19 site prep can now travel. Construction workers in this category will need an essential worker document – it’s the same process as CalMac currently operate for emergency construction work.

National guidelines now also allow for travel for the purposes of leisure and recreation, but long journeys should be avoided. For the purposes of clarity and uniformity, CalMac will not yet be permitting travel to or from the islands for recreation, sports or exercise. So whilst you may now travel for recreation on the island, you may not leave the island purely for recreation (nor may others come here purely for recreation).

Updated guidance from CalMac is here:

National Framework for Decision Making:


Whilst these first relaxations demonstrate that the islands are following the same cautious trajectory and phasing as mainland areas, there are practical issues for the ferry service that may affect how each new relaxation is implemented.

The need to maintain social distancing onboard mean that the passenger capacity of our ferries will be very much reduced. Cleaning regimes also mean that turnaround times will be longer. As demand for ferry travel increases progressively, the timetable will adapt. But ‘socially distant’ safe passenger limits may restrict the number of people that can travel to and from the islands.

Those safe passenger limits and maximum possible ferry frequency have not yet been determined for our routes, but we hope to get clarification on that soon. Once those limits are known, the nature of the problems and choices we may have in the coming months should be clearer. For example, it may be necessary to prioritise some types of travel over others.

As soon as we know more about the practical limits that may apply in coming months, we will let you know, and consult where necessary if there are choices to be made. We are in regular contact with both CalMac and relevant Ministers to ensure that the guidance is clear and users’ expectations are understood. If you have particular concerns about ferry travel please contact us.

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