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 2021 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.
Following local public circulation of the draft SUR, and endorsement by key local representative groups, the SUR was completed in October 2021 and presented to Transport Scotland. You can view it below.
Prompted by the publication of a discussion paper on crewing regimes by CalMac, we have responded with our own assessment of crewing options, particularly in the context of Craignure-Oban ferry services. We believe there is merit in considering live-ashore crewing for vessels, where that delivers service improvement and reduces operating costs. You can read our assessment below, as well as the CalMac document it refers to.
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