You may have received notification from CalMac today of changes to the summer timetable affecting Coruisk sailings. The last pair of the five daily returns run by the Coruisk will not be operated, and the crossing time of Coruisk sailings is being increased from 55 minutes to 1 hour.
The reasons for this are technical – as well as hugely frustrating. The Coruisk has developed an intermittent electronic problem on the bridge that occurs when control moves from one helm station to another. A technical fix has not been found. The MCA have agreed an operating protocol that overcomes the potential safety concerns – but it requires the Master to be on duty on the bridge at all times. In normal operation, it would be common practice for a more junior officer to be in control whilst the Master was resting. There are legal limits to the number of hours the Master may remain on duty each day. Due to the MCA’s requirement for the Master to be on duty at all times whilst the Coruisk is underway, the Master will now reach that legal time limit before the day’s sailings are complete. CalMac’s response is to remove the last two sailings from the timetable.
The MCA’s bridge protocol also requires the Coruisk to come to a complete stop just before berthing, whilst control moves from the central helm station to one of the wings. This procedure will add five minutes to the crossing time.
This amended timetable will remain in place for the entire summer. As well as a loss of much-needed capacity on an already highly restricted service (see here for more on that), one of the main results is a reduction of available time on the mainland. The last sailing from Oban on most days will now be 18:20, rather than 20:00 as is normal for the summer. For the complete amended timetable, see the CalMac site here.
As you can imagine, we have argued against this – but it seems there is no alternative. There are no additional crew members available and no spare vessels. We had suggested that alternative sailings should be cut, so that the available day on the mainland was not compromised – but this too was apparently not possible due to the hours of rest requirements.