Mull and Iona Ferry Committee Meeting
18th February 2019
7pm Isle of Mull Hotel
Attendees: Andrena Duffin, Andy Knight, Ben Wilson, Chris James, Clare Simonetta, David Galbraith, Elizabeth Ferguson, Finlay MacDonald, Geordie Tilley, James Knight, Jim Corbett, Joe Reade, Keith Robbie, Moray Finch, Neal Goldsmith, Ian Erskine and Robbie Drummond MD CalMac
Welcome, Apologies, Minutes: Apologies John MacDonald, Mairi Davidson, Mary-Jean Devon, Susan Campbell.
Welcome to Calmac MD Robbie Drummond and acting Port Manager Geordie Tilley.
Amendments to be added to previous minutes. Re Livestock booking JC felt the system should remain as it is.
BMcC (by email) regarding positioning of the South Pier – re-siting anywhere within the current curtilage, and usage of bus lanes – all buses not just coaches.
Robbie Drummond (Calmac)
Vision for future and challenges. The ferry service exists to support communities and deliver the best possible service. The company operates the contract for TS. TS set pricing/ timetables and CMAL are responsible for ports and vessels.
Regarding performance of the vessels. The traffic across the network has increased by 40% in the last 5 years with more sailings and a 2 boat service. Vessels are at 100% deployed in the summer. The average age of the vessels is 13-23 years. But vessels are also worked very hard. Our vessel the Isle of Mull is 34 years old and maintained, but as boats become older they experience technical issues resulting in disruption. New vessels would cascade down through the fleet and provide ‘free
vessels’ for deployment. During the summer months there is no contingency plan with vessels being shared between communities.
The current ticket system is 27 years old and can’t be upgraded. It is not ‘connected’ as modern systems would be. If services are cancelled then passengers are personally contacted regarding cancellations.
NG commented that Calmac was aware of the ferry situation facing islands and 3 years into the 8 year tender nothing has changed, and asked what was going on behind the scenes to rectify the problems. RD – the contract is run with the assets given, spending millions of pounds more on maintenance. More of this maintenance is done upfront with boats in service, with a £3.5 million investment in replacement of obsolete equipment. There are no clear statistics for future vessels or ports or means of calculating the economic value of the service. There are 33 vessels all of which are different, 50 ports all of which are different – if these were the same then vessels and crews would be interchangeable.
MF questioned whether, with the change of policy regarding tourism taxes, would this be collected by the Calmac ticketing system. RD responded that this would be done if it was government policy. A request for an upgrade of the ticketing system has previously been submitted to CMAL – the cost of which is an 8 figure sum. FM asked if there was anything that could be done to exert pressure. NG commented that a ticketing system would help with vessel replacement as the current system doesn’t record how many people try to book and can’t. Also indication of car length would help with car deck management. EF confirmed that ticketing could be discussed with the minister at their next meeting.
JK commented on company structure and felt that the smaller vessels crewed by people who live in the community were less problematic due to the sense of community responsibility. If the larger boats have one crew then time is limited, and boats spend a lot of time tied up. If there was increased
accommodation for 2 crews or crews from the community then
the system would be less problematic. RD responded that
vessel utilisation is at the max. for the crews that Calmac has
and if there were more crews where would they go?
Following a recent questionnaire users of the service consider
that reliability is the top priority and that this is becoming more
of an issue, with a growing lack of confidence in winter sailings.
87% think that reliability is getting worse. Scoring for the Oban
to Craignure service :2 in contrast with Lochaline : 7-8.
In terms of reliability the Fishnish route has a low cancellation
rate around 2%. In comparison, the Oban/ Craignure route,
with the same boat, was perceived as having been more
reliable than Lochaline in the early 2000’s, now much less
reliable. Weather related cancellations show an upward trend.
JR questioned why this was the case, although aware of the
older boats and infrastructure why are boats less ready to sail
in bad weather. Weather data from winters for the last 20
years – wind index versus cancellations indicate no significant
upward or downward trend but with over 10% cancellations in
- Similar weather in 2000 had a cancellation rate of
0.35%. All boats seem less able to cope with weather than
Comparative Scottish Operator Cancellations; Orkneys 2%
Pentland 4-6% Calmac 4-10%. Norwegian weather
cancellations scheduled 14,098 – only 8 cancelled due to bad
weather 0.057% other areas 0.21% on the busiest route.
Route classification C Norwegian routes comparable with here.
Recent examples of cancellations : 1st Feb – be aware warning
14 knots gusting to 25 knots and sailings cancelled. 8th Feb –
wild weather with sailings going ahead, coinciding with a
minister’s visit to Oban. No sailings the following day, in better
conditions and daylight. (AK). What is causing captains to lose
NG – should there be re-training for masters lacking confidence
or competence? Difference between skippers is evident. The
community shouldn’t be penalised for where boats are berthed.
Regarding the early morning boat AK relies on the ferry to run
a business and feels there is no consistency. IE commented
that berthing is the issue. JR commented that an employee is
leaving the island due to ferry cancellations.
RD commented that the weather has changed, that the
incidence of Easterly gales is increasing and the severity of the
weather is changing.
One challenge is the necessary investment in ports. (EF) the
late boat on Friday and the running of the early boat on
Saturday are operating at 50% due to the berth. What are
Calmac doing in the public sphere to put pressure on Argyll and
Bute Council. Also to what extent is the weather causing
’technical’ issues – not being able to land a boat because of the
state of the pier. If the service can’t run because facilities
aren’t allowing a boat to land then this needs to be stated
publicly. RD supported EF in this.
JR felt that Calmac should do something about the things that
are within their control, training crews, giving guidance and
supporting masters in their decision making and understanding
of the level of risk. RD said he would take this away with him –
but also stated that safety is paramount and that masters are
not working in isolation, there is a network to back up
AK commented that RD seemed intent on defending the
company rather than understanding public concern and that
faced with a response to a survey suggesting that a third of
customers are dissatisfied he should be concerned. RD
commented that the biggest issue is the infrastructure. Calmac
pay to have a safe and secure harbour, with some leverage in
the harbours act and the need to prove that funds are being
used on infrastructure. MF and EF were both keen to see how
pressure could be applied in this respect.
GT commented that the defects sheet had been the same for
the last 3 years. FM suggested that skippers should cite ‘state
of pier’ in cancellations and put it out there publicly, that the
pier is not fit for purpose. Having a lack of confidence in the
pier being the reason for the master’s decision to cancel.
JR questioned whether Calmac monitor masters cancellations
and the possibility for a more robust 6 monthly assessment
was discussed, along with any pressures masters face
regarding damaging boats.
JR mentioned one common thread from the survey were
excellent comments about shore staff and crew.
Sea condition surveys for the new harbour are now to be
measured by satellite instead of floats. Calmac visited recently
and have written to Argyll and Bute council about this. CMAL
have arranged to put in more lighting, especially necessary for
relief skippers. Communication with relief crews is less
CS outlined the difficulties regarding contacting the port and
the outdated system. There is confusion with farmers thinking
booking is available online – which is not the case. RD to look
Calmac update (IE/GT)
The link span was examined before Christmas and is due to get
maintenance which shouldn’t affect service.
Lochaline – work to take place over a 6 week period, replacing
the berthing structure so that any vessel will be able to berth
there. There will be an additional lane and markings for
boarding. There will be no ferry access to the slipway at the
beginning of the winter period, but use of the timber pier at
Lochaline for passenger service. Transport of dangerous goods
will require advanced warning to put on the Clansman for
Craignure. DW expressed concern that Mull will be cut off
unless a reliable boat is available for this 6 week period. NG questioned whether there would be any parking at Fishnish during the closure.
JC asked whether there could be any extension of service in the winter for the period of closure at Lochaline. IE to investigate previous October usage from Fishnish to Lochaline and assess viability of putting on extra sailings. CMAL meeting at Lochaline re. closure IE to let EF know re meeting on Mull.
JR suggested the Oban route should be the same price as the Lochaline route for regular users during this time.
AK suggested that a 6pm extra ferry would be useful during the closure. IE asked to categorically stick to the 6 week period.
Dates will be from the last week in October- Nov. AD asked that the Community Council be informed.
Regarding the purchase of additional land in Craignure from Chris James to help during the summer months, CJ was approached by Argyll and Bute Council in January.
The minutes of the last meeting are on the website. Focussing on the STAG report and responding to 30 objections regarding the size of the development. There was a feeling that the infrastructure can’t cope with large boats and a proposal for a 3 smaller boat service. Ferry Committee invited to the next meeting. Need to gain an overall view, with meetings giving people chance to input. The Craignure Committee has expressed its views to MCC who now wait to hear from the rest of the island. JC felt that meetings were vital to discuss interim measures and to discuss possibilities for a new pier, suggesting that a 3 ferry service (60) cars would be better for the infrastructure than disgorging 120 vehicles at a time. JK added that with 150 miles of public highway, 90% of which are single track it would be ridiculous to use larger vessels.
NG asked whether there would be any reductions for electric cars, which currently there aren’t. MF said there are plenty of charging points around. RD possibility of bringing this in through fares.
Calmac Community Board Update (NG)
Non- docking sailing on 27th March will be a diverse approach to business and promotion of initiatives in the local community. An initiative discussing businesses and promoting the communities we live in.
Weather Station and data (JR)
Awaiting installation. Ongoing.
Next meeting + AGM Wednesday 8th May 2019
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee Meeting
Wednesday 9th January
7.30pm Isle of Mull Hotel
Present: Elizabeth Ferguson, Finlay MacDonald, Joe Reade, Ben Wilson, James Knight, Neal Goldsmith, Mary-Jean Devon, Susan Campbell, Andrena Duffin, Keith Robbie, David Galbraith , Jim Corbett, Claire Simonetta, John MacDonald, Douglas Wilson , Andy Knight, Moray Finch, Bill McClymont (Convenor, Mull Community Council)
Welcome and Apologies : Iain Erskine, Mairi Davidson, Chris James and Finlay MacRae
Mull Community Council Response to Craignure STAG (Billy McClymont)
BMC questioned the brief for the STAG appraisal. He expressed the Mull Community Council’s commitment to retaining the site. Ideally, a hybrid of the proposed options should be considered for the re-development of the pier. Phase 1 could potentially be the installation of a Roundhead on the existing site. FMD commented on the £18million required for the proposed Dolphin, which doesn’t extend the life of the current pier, suggesting that CALMAC and Argyll and Bute Council should look at a solution together, including the design (currently designed to berth the Isle of Lewis overnight) in search of a cheaper more practical solution.
BMC expressed concern about how large ferries impact upon small community life and the inability of the infrastructure to cope. The Mull Community Council reported on worries about the increased volume of traffic. JR’s view was that the smallest practical ferry would be 60-70 car spaces, even if there were three on the route, judging from the trend of the carrying figures i.e. similar to the IOM in terms of car carrying capacity, though not necessarily with the same passenger capacity. There is a desire to avoid even larger vessels.
BW remarked that currently disruption of the service through weather and the condition of the pier, are the main issues, with the need for the fendering to be repaired as the next step. Though caution should be exercised looking ahead.
BW suggested that the 2 committees should meet together. MJD agreed that although both have different remits and aims the 2 committees should be talking to each other, as the feelings of the community are a big part of the way forward. Both committees exist for the common purpose of achieving advantage for the entire community.
NG stated that the MIFC’s remit is anything to do with boats, service and timetabling issues and that, looking forward, it can’t be seen to support one option. Consultation with the community is essential.
JC remarked that the new pier is a long way in the future and that efforts should be concentrated on an interim solution and the existing pier.
Discussion ensued about there being no possibility of shutting down the pier to complete work as continuity of service must be maintained, and the other side of the current pier being unable to be used, as this would cause damage. If instead, a pier was to be located just slightly South of its current location boats could land on its South side until the current pier is demolished. There were concerns expressed that the Council will build what they want and perhaps giving some consideration to what the community thinks. Also that asking for a Dolphin or a Roundhead, may be pushing for something unachievable. There seemed to be some consensus on the fact that the pier would have to be located to the South but closer to the current pier, if CALMAC would be happy to operate from that location.
BW and JR commented that the committee need to focus on credible, sensible interim measures. NG suggested a joint task force from the FC and MCC to present one voice about interim solutions and offered the hotel as a venue for future meetings.
JK commented that the objective of the proposed plans appeared to be accommodating the Isle of Lewis, which may suit CALMAC and TS. However any change in Government makes the future an “unknown” and it is the present that has to be fixed.
JC said that the Mull Community Council’s wishes to have a new pier as close as possible would be further discussed by the A&BC Harbour board which have to decide upon any option or hybrid option. MJD outlined the complex process of presenting a business case resulting in producing a solution, or range of solutions. JR to further discuss this with her. In response to a question about whether it was necessary to follow STAG or just ask for a funding decision from the Council MJD felt that the latter was
the way forward with CMAL and TS involvement. There was discussion about the possibility of asking the Council for some funding to be used in the interim and factored into the overall funding for the new pier.
BMC acknowledged the need to work together. There is also a Craignure Residents group, formed to directly report impact on the whole village. It was felt that they should be invited to join the FC and MCC joint group and that the people living outside Craignure should also have their views heard.
There was brief discussion about any merits of looking outside Craignure, for example Duart Bay. BMC expressed Mull Community Council’s wishes to retain the pier but to restrict development and keep things as near as possible to how they are now.
Marshalling difficulties were mentioned, with acknowledgement that the CALMAC office should be on the other side of the road. BMC indicated that reduced numbers of coaches visiting the island might enable use of the outside bus lane (nearest the road) to be used for commercial vehicles, which would ease congestion. NG said CALMAC figures showed a 15% rise in coaches.
On reviewing the draft minutes, BMC requested the following changes/additions. The committee decided rather than try to re-write the minute that these changes be inserted here verbatim:
‘Only one thing reference the re siting to the south. The community councils position is re siting anywhere within the current curtilage.
Regarding the bus lanes I felt there were less buses using the bus lanes. NG mentioned more buses coming to the island. I was referring to all buses using the bus lanes not just incoming buses. It was highlighted during the discussion that the outside lane could be used as the un booked lane as well as for commercials.’
Calmac Community Board Update – NG
NG is responsible for Mull Iona Lismore and Kerrera (concentrating on VRDP and CHFS contracts). The Board meet 4 times a year and has additional sub-groups. Of immediate concern is the introduction of cancellation charges eg. if booked on the 6pm ferry and get back in time to catch the 4pm then a £10 charge is made for the cancellation of the 6pm booking. This came into force on 1st January 2019. The reasoning behind the scheme is to prevent multiple bookings. One angle being tackled is illegality of making money from penalty payments. NG feels this is
unworkable and will be quashed. KR questioned whether if Calmac cancel the service a charge would be made when rebooking. He added that commercial businesses, which have been able block book and cancel at time of check in, now have to give 24 hour notice of cancellation. Attempt to standardise penalty system.
Vessel deployment is currently under discussion with 8 new vessels each 102 metres, which all ports could accommodate, offering versatility and less limitations. AK pointed out this was contrary to previous discussion with TS where smaller boats were under consideration. The main worry about frequency and size being the number of cars arriving at one time. NG has also recently met with the Minister of Interior in Denmark, where RET has been introduced off season for locals – will update further on this at a later date. RET will remain problematic at certain times of the year irrespective of the size of boat and local police have expressed concern about traffic.
Farming Update (CS)
CS questioned whether any opportunity exists for the introduction of RET for farm supply vehicles and transportation of animal feeds. JC felt this would be dependent upon what the consequences would mean – evaluating any benefits against loss of current concessions. Also discussed were problems encountered making bookings for farm vehicles by phone as there is no facility to book online at present. NG in liaison with EF and CS to follow up.
Sub Group Update (EF/JR/BW)
TS meeting went well the new TS representative was helpful and plans for incremental change were positive. Further news on this would be reported once the meeting planned with Paul Wheelhouse (Transport Minister) had occurred.
Iona Update (FM)
No update on piers at present.
STAG query from MCC (AD)
AD expressed the Mull Community Council view that an island impact assessment of infrastructure should be included in the STAG brief, addressing the needs of the port and wider community. JR commented that STAG also failed to include reference to vessel deployment plan.
Weather Station, Bank Account, Website (JR)
The weather station is currently awaiting fitting on the gantry above the link span to enable the live feed on the website.
MIFC now has an account number and the bank account will be open soon.
JR is keen to communicate everything openly and asked that members instruct him regarding website wording (not yet live). The website has Blog posts at the front and Facebook/ Blogpost are linked. When launched JR suggested a survey to assess priorities for the service which may be useful to be able to represent islander’s view..
JR questioned the way forward. MJD expressed the need to lobby now as STAG is a long process. Presenting a letter to progress things forward. MJD to help present views. MJD expressed the need for the FC and MCC to endorse each other’s views and gather the opinions of the community – positive effect of people power. There was further discussion about making concerns high profile, the main aim being to get Argyll and Bute Council, TS etc. to commit to immediate work. JR to take suggestions to MCC. MJD to help with planning and press releases.
14th November 2018
7pm Isle of Mull Hotel
Welcome and apologies
Present – Elizabeth Ferguson, Ben Wilson, James Knight, Joe Reade, Andrena Duffin, Susan Campbell, Keith Robbie, David Galbraith, John MacDonald, Moray Finch, Iain Erskine, Finlay MacRae (CALMAC). Apologies from Finlay MacDonald, Jim Corbett, Claire Simonetta, Douglas Wilson, Neal Goldsmith, Andy Knight, Mairi Davidson, Mary-Jean Devon, Chris James.
Winter Timetable Update
24th September SKYPE session with Mike Russell MSP and EF, JR, AK, DW, BW. MR expressed support for an early/ late boat.
8th November Transport Scotland (TS) chaired meeting with sub-group and Calmac present, Argyll and Bute Council declined to send a representative. An open, frank meeting, discussing issues around the early/late boat Calmac’s ability to run the Summer Timetable with respect to VRDP and berthing issues and problems with pier. Transport Scotland is an advocate of the early/late boat. TS to hold a second meeting and insist that Argyll and Bute Council are present. EF and other sub-group members are to meet with Mike Russell MSP and Minister, Paul Wheelhouse in the New Year.
Coverage in local and national media, although certain incorrect statements made by Calmac and Transport Scotland have been challenged.
JK produced a drawing of the Pentalena, discussing its capability, lower fuel, crew and maintenance costs and availability from January. The boat is known to Transport Scotland and Calmac, is proven as a capable, single entry, basic vessel which may require some modification if used on Craignure-Oban route.
STAG discussion and MIFC reply to agree
MIFC have been asked to provide a written response following the STAG report.
EF, KR and MF (MICT) made a declaration of interest.
Interim options were discussed. The Council has stated that it will not fund interim measures. A&BC have marine engineer reports which state pier is at the end of its design life, with degradation commensurate with its age and a life expectancy of another 9/10 years. JR felt it was important to question some of the STAG report eg. reasons for dredging for boats not scheduled for the route. The size of boat should be for later consideration, though concerns were expressed regarding failure to meet the VRDP and that Mull is being left behind relative to other islands. There was further discussion regarding usage, funding to meet this and lack of spending on the pier over the last 15 years. IE discussed issues being experienced with the current linkspan built in 1975. JR and BW felt that cheaper interim solutions should be possible eg. no overnight berth, and that cheaper avenues should be explored to maintain the lifeline service.
ACTION: JR and BW to draft a response to the interim elements of the STAG.
The Committee viewed options for the new pier:
2a) South of existing pier 2b) Ministers Point 3a) North of the existing pier 3b) North of the existing pier (nested)
Discussion of problems/merits of each option:
FM and IE from Calmac provided feedback based on local operator knowledge and skipper feedback.
FM and IE advised finger pier would give greater reliability and service in Craignure and that nested berths were not as flexible for operations.
FM East winds are problematic and cause disruption
IE Ministers Point is too exposed and therefore the least favoured option.
FM Proximity of North pier and the old pier may be problematic in terms of depth.
FM South side finger pier roughly opposite the Craignure Inn would be the most sheltered option as the cliff provided better shelter from winds and the tidal flow was thought to be more favourable. The old pier could be retained without interference.
A number of committee members expressed concern regarding the scale of the entire development, too large for the village. All agreed urgent action required for an interim solution was a priority.
The committee’s favoured options in order were:
1) South side of the existing pier
2) North side of the existing pier
The nested berths and Ministers Point options were least favoured.
ACTION: EF to draft response for long term options for STAG
Calmac update (FM Calmac)
Regarding timetabling/vessel issues – it is likely the current model will operate for the next few seasons, any changes are subject to vessel suitability. Calmac would honour extra sailings required for early/late boat if instructed by TS, using the Coruisk and the IOM though extra sailings have crewing implications. Consideration was given to the use of smaller boats for the extra sailings eg. outside Lismore hours. Again this has crew implications, a larger boat would negate the need to upsize later.
IE and FM both reported that the fendering on the current pier is in poor state of repair. Despite maintenance being requested 2 years ago, the fendering , a design no longer in use, has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where there is potential for vessel damage.
Transporting Animals (CS)
Carried forward to the next meeting for CS.
Iona Update including contingency arrangements (FM)
Carried forward to the next meeting.
Craignure Pier – feasibility study for community buy out, support sought (JR)
The Mull Community Council has yet to decide whether to support. MICT would support investigation of community ownership. There was broad agreement though concerns were expressed regarding when the new pier is to be built, whether the Council can be forced to sell, how marshalling etc. would be managed, whether this might muddy the waters with STAG and whether the committee should focus on other projects. A vote was taken to assess support for investigation of the feasibility of further exploring community ownership – the majority were in favour but the vote was not unanimous.
Weather Station and Bank Account (JR)
A bank account will be set up shortly.
ACTION: JR and EF to progress
Thanks to the businesses that bought the weather station and MICT for hosting the data statistics. The data will be of importance as it shows conditions in real time on line. It can be used to look at cancellations and investigate concerns about the operation of the ferry. Calmac are happy with the real time access this provides. A risk assessment to be carried out prior to installation.
Calmac Community Board update (NG)
Carried forward to the next meeting for NG
Next Meeting Wednesday 9th January 2019.