Ferry boss admits service for islanders has reached crisis point

The CEO of procurement firm CMAL apologises for delays but says the firm is focused on delivering new vessels.

The Scottish Government’s ferry owning firm admits the service for islanders has reached crisis point.

Kevin Hobbs, the CEO of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) told STV News there wasn’t “any way of hiding away from that fact”.

He was speaking just days after the MV Isle of Islay, the first of two vessels to serve the islands of Jura and Islay, took to the water for the first time in Turkey at the weekend.

Hobbs apologised for the disruption caused by delays to building new ferries, but said CMAL remains focused on delivering new vessels to replace the ageing fleet.

He also said the current setup to procure ferries with CalMac and Transport Scotland is working well.

The MV Isle of Islay launches in Turkey.CMAL

“We have four vessels that are being built over in Turkey and this was the first of the four to be launched,” Hobbs told STV News. “We have a second one following on very shortly, which should be in June of this year.

“At the moment, everything is positive, it’s on time and on budget.”

The MV Isle of Islay holds a maximum of 450 passengers and 100 cars, or 14 commercial vehicles.

It is scheduled to come into operation in late November/early December this year, and will provide a 40% increase in vehicle and freight capacity on the Islay routes.

Work on the vessel is to continue in the meantime while the ferry is on the water. It will then undergo a series of sea trials before it returns to CMAL.

The MV Isle of Islay will soon be accompanied by sister ship MC Loch Indaal, which is set to launch at a later date.

However, at the company’s headquarters in Port Glasgow sits a reminder of its biggest failure.

The Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa currently cost almost four times the original estimate and are six years overdue.

Further tests will need to take place before the Glen Sannox, which has capacity for 852 passengers, can begin serving the Arran route.

“I don’t think it’s embarrassing (if Islay ferry ready before the Glen Sannox). I think what we need to do is concentrate on the fact that there is six new vessels coming.

“Our belief at the moment is the Glen Sannox should arrive before the Isle of Islay gets into service, so we would hope sometime during the summer of this year.

“It’s not been the best of contracts I’ll be honest with you. I think it’s a well-trodden path in terms of the difficulties we have experienced, including Fergus Marine Engineering Limited going bankrupt during the process, and is has been a very, very difficult contract.

“But what we’re really focusing on now is, number one, getting the Glen Sannox in service this year and obviously getting the Glen Rosa in the water, and that will happen shortly after Easter.”

Hobbs acknowledged the difficulties on the Islay route in recent months and apologised to those affected.

“We’ve made it very, very clear as an organisation that we believe there has been a lack of investment in ferries, for sure.

“If you look at the last 20 years of investment in ferries, it hasn’t been where it should have been.

“First and foremost, we are very sorry it has happened. “We are now doing the best we possibly can with the money afforded to us to try and sort those problems out.

“This is a really good first step, to get the six new ones. Is there more to be done? Absolutely.”

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