Caledonian MacBrayne

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CalMac Ferries Ltd
Caledonian MacBrayne
Public (State-Owned)
Industry Transport
Founded 1851
Founder David MacBrayne
Headquarters Gourock, Inverclyde, Scotland
Area served
River Clyde,
Outer Hebrides,
Inner Hebrides
Key people
Robbie Drummond (Managing Director)
Services Ferries
Owner Scottish Government
Parent David MacBrayne Ltd
Website www.calmac.co.uk
The funnel of MV Juno

Caledonian MacBrayne (Scottish Gaelic: Caledonian Mac a' Bhriuthainn), usually shortened to CalMac, is the major operator of passenger and vehicle ferries, and ferry services, between the mainland of Scotland and 22 of the major islands on Scotland's west coast. Since 2006 the company's official name has been CalMac Ferries Ltd although it still operates as Caledonian MacBrayne. In 2006 it also became a subsidiary of holding company David MacBrayne Ltd, which is owned by the Scottish Government.[1]

History[edit]

The Caledonian MacBrayne headquarters building at Gourock pierhead and a visit from MV Caledonian Isles and MV Isle of Mull

David MacBrayne[edit]

MacBrayne's, initially known as David Hutcheson & Co., began in 1851 as a private steamship operator when G. and J. Burns, operators of the largest of the Clyde fleets, decided to concentrate on coastal and transatlantic services and handed control of their river and Highland steamers to a new company in which Hutcheson, their manager of these services, became senior partner. Their main route went from Glasgow down the Firth of Clyde through the Crinan Canal to Oban and Fort William, and on through the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. David Hutcheson was married to Margaret Dawson who was born at her parents home 'Bonnytoun House' in Linlithgow. She was the sister of Adam Dawson who owned the St. Magdalene Whisky Distillery in Linlithgow and sister to James Dawson who were also born at 'Bonnytoun House'. In 2011 Glasgow historian Robert Pool added over 200 letters and documents to his collection relating to David Hutcheson and the Dawson family.[2]

With the retirement of the founders of David Hutcheson & Co in the 1870s, their partner (and nephew of Messrs. Burns) David MacBrayne gained full ownership, and changed the company's name accordingly. It remained in the hands of the MacBrayne family until 1928 when, unable to carry on, it was acquired jointly by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and Coast Lines. Its ships featured red funnels with a black top.

Caledonian Steam Packet Company[edit]

The Caledonian Railway at first used the services of various early private operators of Clyde steamers, then began operating steamers on its own account on 1 January 1889 to compete better with the North British Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway. It extended its line to bypass the G&SW's Prince's Pier at Greenock and continue on to the fishing village of Gourock, where they had purchased the harbour.

After years of fierce competition between all the fleets, the Caledonian and G&SW were merged in 1923 into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) and their fleets were amalgamated into the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Their funnels were painted yellow with a black top. At the same time the North British Railway fleet became part of the London and North Eastern Railway (which built the PS Waverley in 1947). With nationalisation in 1948 the LMS and LNER fleets were amalgamated under British Railways with the name Clyde Shipping Services. In 1957 a reorganisation restored the CSP name, and in 1965 a red lion was added to each side of the black-topped yellow funnels. The headquarters remained at Gourock pierhead.

At the end of December 1968 management of the CSP passed to the Scottish Transport Group, which gained control of MacBrayne's the following June. The MacBrayne service from Gourock to Ardrishaig ended on 30 September 1969, leaving the Clyde entirely to the CSP.

Caledonian MacBrayne[edit]

MV Jupiter leaving Dunoon
MV Caledonian Isles at Gourock

On 1 January 1973 the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. acquired most of the ships and routes of MacBrayne's and commenced joint Clyde and West Highland operations under the new name of Caledonian MacBrayne, with a combined headquarters at Gourock. Funnels were now painted red with a black top, and a yellow circle at the side of the funnel featuring the red Caledonian lion. In 1974 a new car ferry service from Gourock to Dunoon was introduced with the ferries MV Jupiter and MV Juno.

In 1990 the ferry business was spun off as a separate company, keeping the Caledonian MacBrayne brand, and shares were issued in the company. All shares were owned by the state, first in the person of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and (after devolution) by the Scottish Government.

A joint venture between Caledonian MacBrayne and the Royal Bank of Scotland named NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries won the tender for the subsidised Northern Isles services, previously run by P&O Scottish Ferries, commencing in 2002. The ambitious programme ran into financial difficulties, and the service was again put out to tender. Caledonian MacBrayne won this tender, and formed a separate company called NorthLink Ferries Limited which began operating the Northern Isles ferry service on 6 July 2006.[3] On 29 May 2012, NorthLink Ferries Ltd lost the contract for provision of the Northern Isles ferry services to Serco.[4]

Restructuring[edit]

To meet the requirements of European Union Community guidelines on state aid to maritime transport (note: a relevant opt-out clause for lifeline services known as the Teckal Exemption exists but was not exercised), the company's routes were put out to open tender. To enable competitive bidding on an equal basis, Caledonian MacBrayne was split into two separate companies on 1 October 2006. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) retained ownership of CalMac vessels and infrastructure, including harbours, while CalMac Ferries Ltd submitted tenders to be the ferry operator. Their bid for the main bundle, Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, succeeded and on 1 October 2007 CalMac Ferries Ltd began operating these services on a six-year contract. The Gourock to Dunoon service was the subject of a separate tender, but no formal bids were made. In an interim arrangement CalMac Ferries Ltd continued to provide a subsidised service on this route,[3][5] until 29 June 2011, when Argyll Ferries took over the service.

On 14 July 2009, it was announced that CalMac would begin controversial Sunday sailings to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis from Sunday 19 July. These have historically faced strong opposition from strong Sabbatarian elements in the Lewis community, particularly the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Free Church of Scotland. However, CalMac states that EU equality legislation makes it unlawful to refuse a service to the whole community because of the religious beliefs of a part of it.[6]

Business[edit]

The company enjoys a de facto monopoly on the shipment of freight and vehicles to the islands, and competes for passenger traffic with number of aircraft services of varying quality and reliability. Nonetheless, few if any of the routes currently operated by CalMac are profitable, and the company receives significant government subsidies due to its vital role in supplying the islands - these routes are classified as "lifeline" services. In 1996 CalMac opened its first route outside Scotland, winning a ten-year contract to provide a lifeline service to Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland. This service continued until 2008 when CalMac lost the tender.[7]

Various versions of a local poem (based loosely on Psalm 24) refer to MacBrayne's long dominance of Hebridean sailings:

The Earth belongs unto the Lord
And all that it contains
Except the Kyles and the Western Isles
And they are all MacBrayne's

Several groups have proposed privatising the service, and there has been a long commercial and political struggle with a privately owned company, Western Ferries, which has run a rival unsubsidised service from Gourock to Hunters Quay (near Dunoon) since 1973. In 2005, the Scottish Executive put the collective Hebrides routes out to competitive tender, with the Dunoon route being a separate tender.[8] Some island and union groups opposed the tendering process, fearing it would lead to cuts in services and could be a prelude to full privatisation.

During the tendering period, the company of David MacBrayne Ltd., which had been legally dormant for many years, was re-activated on 4 July 2006. David MacBrayne Group Ltd. acquired the full share capital of NorthLink Ferries Ltd, and took over operations of the NorthLink routes on 6 July 2006. Three operators submitted bids for the block of routes[9] with CalMac retaining all its existing routes. During September 2006, David MacBrayne Group Ltd., acquired the entire share capital of CalMac Ferries Ltd. Thus, from leaving the hands of David MacBrayne 78 years earlier in 1928, the west coast ferry service returned to the fold in 2006, vastly enlarged.

At the time, no bids were made for the separate Gourock–Dunoon route and the service continued as before. In August 2006, David MacBrayne Group Ltd., directed two of its subsidiary companies, Cowal Ferries Ltd., and Rathlin Ferries Ltd., to take over operation of the Gourock to Dunoon, and Rathlin to Ballycastle services. Following a European Commission decision to not subsidise a passenger and vehicle service, the route was again put out to tender. In May 2011, Argyll Ferries Ltd, a newly formed subsidiary of David MacBrayne, was named as the preferred bidder for a passenger-only Dunoon-Gourock service. The timetable was extended into the early hours over weekends, with additional sailings integrated with rail services. Two passenger-only ferries, MV Ali Cat and MV Argyll Flyer (formerly MV Banrion Chonomara), were arranged for the run.[10] When the service began on 30 June 2011, preparation of the Argyll Flyer was incomplete, and as an interim measure the cruise boat MV Clyde Clipper was leased from Clyde Cruises.[11]

Routes[edit]

Map of ferry services in Scotland, CalMac services shown in red
MV Saturn (Satharn in Gaelic) arrives at Gourock
MV Hebridean Isles at Scrabster
MV Isle of Mull leaving Oban harbour with Kerrera in the background
Mainland or inner port Island or outer port Crossing Voyage Time Regular vessel(s)
Portavadie, Cowal Tarbert, Kintyre Peninsula Loch Fyne 25 minutes MV Isle of Cumbrae (summer)
MV Catriona (winter)
Wemyss Bay, Inverclyde Rothesay, Isle of Bute Firth of Clyde 35 minutes MVs Argyle & Bute
Colintraive, Cowal Rhubodach, Northern Bute Kyles of Bute 5 minutes MV Loch Dunvegan
Largs, North Ayrshire Cumbrae Slip, Isle of Cumbrae Firth of Clyde 10 minutes MV Loch Shira
MV Loch Riddon (summer only)
Ardrossan, North Ayrshire Brodick, Isle of Arran Firth of Clyde 55 minutes MV Caledonian Isles
MV Isle of Arran (summer only)
Ardrossan
(summer only service)
Campbeltown, Kintyre Firth of Clyde 2 hours 40 minutes MV Isle of Arran
Claonaig, Eastern Kintyre Peninsula
(summer only service)
Lochranza, Isle of Arran Kilbrannan Sound 30 minutes MV Catriona
Tarbert, Kintyre Peninsula
(winter only service)
Lochranza, Isle of Arran Loch Fyne / Kilbrannan Sound 1 hour 25 minutes MV Catriona
Tayinloan, Western Kintyre Ardminish, Isle of Gigha Sound of Gigha 20 minutes MV Loch Ranza
Kennacraig, Western Kintyre Port Ellen, Southern Islay via West Loch Tarbert, Argyll 2 hours 20 minutes MVs Finlaggan &
Hebridean Isles
Kennacraig Port Askaig, Eastern Islay Sound of Islay 2 hours 5 minutes
Port Askaig Scalasaig, Isle of Colonsay 1 hour 10 minutes
Oban Scalasaig, Colonsay 2 hours 20 minutes MV Clansman
MV Lord of the Isles (winter only)
Oban Craignure, Isle of Mull Firth of Lorne 46 minutes MV Isle of Mull
MV Coruisk (summer only)
Oban Achnacroish, Isle of Lismore Lynn of Lorne 50 minutes MV Loch Striven
Oban Arinagour, Isle of Coll Firth of Lorne / Sound of Mull 2 hours 55 minutes MV Clansman
Oban Scarinish, Isle of Tiree Sound of Mull / Little Minch 3 hours 20 minutes
Oban Castlebay, Isle of Barra Sound of Mull / Little Minch 4 hours 45 minutes MV Isle of Lewis
Oban (winter only service) Lochboisdale, South Uist Little Minch / Sound of Mull 5 Hours 10 Minutes MV Lord of the Isles
Gallanach Balliemore, Kerrera Sound of Kerrera 5 minutes MV Carvoria
Lochaline, Morvern Peninsula Fishnish, Mull Sound of Mull 15 minutes MV Lochinvar
Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan Peninsula Tobermory, Mull Sound of Mull 35 minutes MV Loch Tarbert
Fionnphort, Ross of Mull Iona Sound of Iona 10 minutes MV Loch Buie
Mallaig Armadale, Sleat Peninsula, Skye Sound of Sleat 30-45 minutes
varies dependent on which vessel
MV Lord of the Isles (summer)
MV Loch Fyne(summer)
MV Lochnevis (winter)
Mallaig Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rùm & Canna) Varies MV Lochnevis
Mallaig Lochboisdale, South Uist Little Minch 3 hours 15 minutes MV Lord of the Isles
Sconser, Skye Raasay Narrows of Raasay 15 minutes MV Hallaig
Ardmhor (Barra) Isle of Eriskay
(connected to South Uist by causeway)
Sound of Barra 40 minutes MV Loch Alainn
Uig, Skye Lochmaddy, North Uist Little Minch 1 hour 45 minutes MV Hebrides
Uig Tarbert, Harris Little Minch 1 hour 45 minutes
Leverburgh, Harris Isle of Berneray
(connected to North Uist by causeway)
Sound of Harris 1 hour MV Loch Portain
Ullapool, Wester Ross Stornoway, Lewis The Minch 2 hours 45 minutes MV Loch Seaforth

Other vessels[edit]

Passenger numbers[edit]

Passenger numbers on the 10 busiest CalMac routes (2017)[15]
Route Passengers
(2017)
Passengers
(2016)
Change (2016-17) % change Passengers
(2014)
Passengers
(2006)
Ardrossan–Brodick 844,198 828,262 Increase15,936 Increase1.92% 715,048 735,928
Largs–Cumbrae 745,619 738,549 Increase7,070 Increase0.96% 706,172 722,561
Wemyss Bay/Gourock–Rothesay 713,906 675,714 Increase38,192 Increase5.65% 674,088 759,680
Oban–Craignure 670,248 644,827 Increase25,421 Increase3.94% 572,084 640,426
Mallaig–Armadale 285,483 250,764 Increase34,719 Increase13.85% 239,453 188,929
Ullapool–Stornoway 275,699 264,055 Increase11,644 Increase4.41% 226,061 181,160
Fionnphort–Iona 250,311 243,211 Increase7,100 Increase2.92% 223,978 255,501
Colintraive–Rhubodach 216,204 232,015 Decrease15,811 Decrease6.81% 214,550 264,644
Kennacraig–Islay 214,334 203,219 Increase11,115 Increase5.47% 189,822 152,526
Uig–Tarbert/Lochmaddy 195,752 188,138 Increase7,614 Increase4.05% 194,416 148,587

Current fleet[edit]

Vessels are owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd. There are 31 vessels in current service, with ten 'major units' – ships of 80 m (262 ft) or more in length. The largest is MV Loch Seaforth at 116 m (381 ft) in length. MV Finlaggan (2011) is almost 90 m (295 ft) long and able to carry 550 passengers with 88 cars.[16] She was built in Poland, at a cost of £24.5 million and operates the Islay service.[17] The others are MV Isle of Lewis, MV Clansman, MV Hebrides, MV Caledonian Isles, MV Isle of Mull, MV Hebridean Isles, MV Isle of Arran and MV Lord of the Isles.[16]

There are 13 "Loch Class" vessels in different shapes and sizes. These double-ended ferries are mostly symmetrical when viewed from the side, with no operational bow or stern (although in official documents the designation of such is given). MV Loch Portain is able to handle Force 7 gales and carry 36 cars and 149 passengers, with a crew of five.[citation needed] The smallest vessel in the fleet is MV Carvoria, built in Shetland for the Kerrera route.[18]

The company is adapting to the demands of 21st century. MV Lochnevis (2000) was designed for the Small Isles service. MV Bute (2005) and MV Argyle (2007), both built in Gdansk are on the Wemyss BayRothesay route. A new "super loch", MV Loch Shira entered service in 2007 on the LargsCumbrae route. MV Hallaig (2013; for Raasay), MV Lochinvar (2013; for Tarbert) and MV Catriona (2015; for Lochranza), built by Ferguson Marine Engineering are pioneering seagoing roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.[19] The latest vessels are two dual fuel ferries under construction by Ferguson Marine Engineering: MV Glen Sannox (2017) is due to be delivered for the Arran service in summer 2019[20] and Hull 802 is due to be launched in 2018 for the Uig triangle.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Company History". Caledonian MacBrayne. 
  2. ^ "David Hutcheson and Dawson family documents". The Great Shipping Dynasty of Burns, Hutcheson and MacBrayne. Robert Pool's Glasgow Collection @ Flickr. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Alan Rehfisch (2007). "Ferry Services in Scotland" (PDF). SPICe Briefing. Scottish Parliament Information Centre. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Serco confirmed as Northern Isles ferry operator". BBC News. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "UK | Scotland | Highlands and Islands | CalMac ferry contract confirmed". BBC News. 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  6. ^ "UK | Scotland | Highlands and Islands | Green light for Sunday sailings". BBC News. 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  7. ^ "Probe into tendering contract of ferry run". News Letter. 17 June 2008. 
  8. ^ "Proposals for Gourock-Dunoon ferry route". Scottish Executive. 21 September 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2007. 
  9. ^ "UK | Scotland | Contest narrows for CalMac routes". BBC News. 2005-12-23. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  10. ^ "Argyll News: Argyll Ferries Wins Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Tender". For Argyll. 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  11. ^ Goodwin, David (2011-07-01). "Ferry Launch is hit by first-day breakdown". Greenock Telegraph. pp. 1–2. 
  12. ^ "Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited announces Scottish shipbuilder as preferred tenderer for two large ferries contract". CMAL. 31 August 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2017. 
  13. ^ "CMAL announces name of first LNG ferry". CMAL. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "Public invited to help name CMAL's first LNG ferry". CMAL. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2017. 
  15. ^ "Carrying Statistics". Calmac.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-08-16. 
  16. ^ a b "Ships of the Fleet". Ships of CalMac. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  17. ^ "Remontowa wins newbuilding order for another ferry to be operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd". Remontowa.net. 2007-11-02. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  18. ^ "New Kerrera Ferry Launches in Lerwick". CMAL. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2018. 
  19. ^ "'Hybrid' CalMac ferry launched from Port Glasgow". BBC News. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  20. ^ "First Minister Launches UK's First LNG Ferry". CMAL. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
  21. ^ "CMAL Shares Project Update on Dual Fuel Ferries". CMAL. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • McCrorie, Ian (1987). Clyde Pleasure Steamers: an illustrated history. Greenock: Orr, Pollock & Co. ISBN 1-869850-00-9. 
  • McCrorie, Ian (1987). Steamers of the Highlands and Islands: an illustrated history. Greenock: Orr, Pollock & Co. ISBN 1-869850-01-7. 
  • McCrorie, Ian (1989). To the Coast: one hundred years of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Fairlie: Fairlie Press. ISBN 1-871209-01-3. 
  • Meek, Donald E.; Peter, Bruce (2011). From Comet to Cal Mac: Two Centuries of Hebridean and Clyde Shipping. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781906608361. 
  • Preston, Robert (1994). Days at the Coast. Ochiltree: Stenlake Publishing. ISBN 1-872074-42-1. 
  • Robins, Nick S.; Meek, Donald E. (2006). The Kingdom of MacBrayne: from steamships to car-ferries in the West Highlands and Hebrides, 1820-2005. Edinburgh: Birlinn. ISBN 1-84158-500-9. 
  • Smith, Colin; Cowsill, Miles (2016). Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean and Clyde Ferries: the fleet. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781911268055. 

External links[edit]