We were very pleased to welcome the new Transport Minister to Mull at the end of August, for a constructive and wide-ranging discussion regarding Mull and Iona’s ferry services.
Among the topics of discussion was of course the Mull catamaran, and the disappointing decision not to proceed with it. MIFC remain firmly of the view that the vessel purchase failed not because the ferry was technically or operationally inappropriate, but because the commercial negotiation was mis-handled. Transport Scotland and Mr Dey view the episode differently, and we were unable to persuade them of our position.
Despite this frustrating difference of opinion on such an important issue to us, MIFC, Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister are all committed to working constructively together in the future. Mr Dey recognised that there were many challenges, and that the service currently provided was not good enough. We took some reassurance from his frank assessment of the current situation, and his obvious desire to listen to island communities and make improvements in both the short and long term.
In the short term, Mr Dey was keen to understand what the advantages and objectives of our ‘Island Focussed’ timetable proposal were, and to look again at ways that it could be delivered. The Island Focussed timetable (whereby the first sailing of the day leaves the island, and the last returns to it) is best delivered by an island-based ferry. This was one of the main advantages that the aborted charter of the Pentalina would have delivered. But in the absence of that, additional re-positioning sailings by the MV Isle of Mull at the beginning and end of the day would achieve the same result. We were pleased to hear the Minister’s willingness to find other ways to deliver the additional winter sailings we have long argued for, and will be taking the issue up with him.
Looking to the longer-term, we discussed the replacement of the MV Isle of Mull, and how we can make sure the best vessels are delivered. Mr Dey undertook to improve the dialogue with the Ferry Committee on this key issue, and agreed that the process will be one that builds upon recent engagements on vessel replacement and where the voices of stakeholders and communities on Mull will form a key part of developing the options for the replacement vessel. We look forward to a truly collaborative process, where community representatives are on an equal footing with the other stakeholders, rather than being a passive audience to ‘consultation’. As a first step in that process, MIFC will soon be publishing a draft Specification of User Requirements for the replacement ferries, and will welcome community feedback.
CMAL’s report on Mull Catamaran released.
CMAL’s final justification for rejecting the Mull catamaran was the ‘Leadship Report’; a technical response by their naval architecture consultants to the Strathclyde University study that was commissioned by MIFC (and paid for jointly by the sellers and the local community).
CMAL refused to release the Leadship Report, despite both Sealease (the sellers) and MIFC urging its publication. Transport Scotland have now provided us with the report, and it is now available to read on our website.
We have added our own notes to the report. In short, it does not offer anything that changes our view of the handling of the catamaran issue. It only reinforces our view that CMAL’s approach to the commercial negotiation was entirely (and perhaps deliberately) incorrect. You can read it here (scroll to the bottom).