Thanks to everyone who donated so generously and swiftly to our Crowdfunder, we have been able commission the Strathclyde University study of our potential catamaran – and it reported over the weekend. IT PASSES – and with flying colours. The study assessed not just the ferry as-built, but the minor modifications needed to make it comply with UK regulations.
This is fantastic news, because the question of ‘will it pass the MCA?’ has been the main stumbling block to progress. CMAL said they had no confidence in in it passing, and Transport Scotland were not willing to pay for the investigation that would have answered the question. So we had no option but to pay for the work ourselves. We have now proven the assertion that it won’t pass the MCA to be false. In fact, on the key measure of damage stability (that’s how well the vessel survives damage and can remain stable and buoyant), the catamaran scores exceptionally highly. With a ‘survivability index’ of 97.8%, it is far safer than typical monohull car ferries, that normally score at around 75%. So if CMAL bought this ferry, in terms of damage stability it would be the safest in the CalMac fleet. The Professor who led the investigation summed it up like this:
“This is one of the safest vessels we have ever assessed, and in my career I have assessed more than 150 car ferries”.
With the key MCA stumbling block so affirmatively dealt with, the decision is now with Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse. He has just three days before Parliament rises to instruct CMAL to re-engage on the commercial terms offered to them. So time is very tight.
We have written to Paul Wheelhouse, and asked him both for an urgent meeting and for a quick decision. The catamaran will not be available when parliament returns in May. It is almost complete, and there are other serious buyers interested in it, who unlike CMAL are unlikely to take 8 months to arrive at a decision.
If we are successful, we will achieve an Island-Focussed timetable with far better connections and travel opportunities. We will alleviate the summer congestion that blights the route (it is the most congested in the network). We will have a ferry that can deal with our windy winter weather far more effectively. We will enable the Coruisk to return to Armadale, where she is badly missed. But above all of that, we will also be introducing a new kind of ferry to the fleet that is far more efficient, far cheaper to build, far cheaper to operate, far more productive – and demonstrate how much better our ferry service could be if better ferry procurement decisions were taken.
If we fail (and despite the positive report, that remains a distinct possibility), then there will be no improvement to our main ferry service for around ten years, or whenever Craignure Pier is re-built. Until that happens, CalMac simply have no other boats aside from the Coruisk that can operate our Craignure-based summer service.
Below you can read our letter to Paul Wheelhouse, and our accompanying press release. The full Strathclyde University study is available here.