Mull’s main ferry was launched in 1987, and at 34 years old she is among the most elderly vessels in the CalMac major vessel fleet. Only the Hebridean Isles and Isle of Arran are older, and both have replacements either in construction or procurement now.
The process of procuring a new ferry takes a long time, even if things go according to plan. For example two new vessels for Islay are currently at tender stage, and should be delivered in 2024. Initial government commitment for the Islay replacement was given in 2018 by the then-Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, so the entire process will have taken around six years by the time the vessels are delivered.
We should expect a similar time-line, which would put delivery in 2027. At that point the Isle of Mull will be 40 years old, and the longest-served major CalMac ferry in history. And as we all know, we have the most congested service in the entire CalMac network. Clearly, replacement is now urgent and very much over-due.
There has been lots of criticism of recent ferry procurement – not just because it has been so slow and the fleet is now older than ever – but because other islands have felt that they have had frustratingly little input into the vessels that have been delivered. This criticism was echoed in the 2020 parliamentary enquiry into ferry procurement. We want to make sure those mistakes are not repeated on Mull and Iona.
Doing things better.
Back in May we ran a survey to get community input into the creation of a Specification of User Requirements. (SUR) It’s a document that lays out the key requirements that users expect the new ferries to satisfy, and the first step in making sure our voice is heard. It is a complimentary document to the Specification of Operational Requirements that is CalMac’s central input into the process.
The SUR is now complete in draft form, and we want to hear what you think of it. You can download it below. Please give it a read, and if you have any comments or thoughts, please email us. We want to be sure that we’re representing the broad views of all our islands as fairly as possible, and that the outcome at the end is the best ferry service possible. Please email us before October 15th. We look forward to hearing from you!
The full survey report from May is also available, and will be sent to all relevant agencies together with the SUR. You can also download that below.