Scottish West cost ferry operator CalMac is undertaking some significant fleet improvements during this year’s drydocking maintenance programme.
Every year, each of the company’s 34 vessels, ranging in size from the 8,600 gt ‘Loch Seaforth’, to the 11 tonne ‘Carvoria’, all have to undergo a period of maintenance to ensure continuing seaworthiness.
Calmac said that this presents a complex logistical problem to keep all of its lifeline services running with minimal disruption.
“Organising time for each vessel to enter drydock, while keeping services running is a real challenge for us that requires detailed planning. When the weather is taken into account this can be real test keeping communities connected,” explained CalMac’s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison.
“Above and beyond the normal bow to stern servicing to ensure they are fit for another year’s service, there are some major projects planned this year to improve comfort and resilience on a range of vessels,” he said.
For example, ‘Loch Seaforth’ is having a further 40 internal seats fitted and improved fast rescue craft fitted, while cranes are being added to ‘Hebrides’ and ‘Isle of Lewis’, which are also receiving new disabled bathrooms and changing facilities.
Passenger lifts on board ‘Hebrides’, ‘Isle of Arran’, ‘Isle of Mull’ and ‘Lord of the Isles’ are to be upgraded to improve reliability.
In addition, ‘Lochinvar’ and ‘Lord of the Isles’ are undergoing lighting upgrades with fluorescent tubing being replaced by LED lighting.
On ‘Caledonian Isles’, ‘Loch Shira’, ‘Isle of Mull’ and ‘Coruisk’ improved CCTV systems will be fitted to assist in ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew.
There are also a number of upgrades planned to improve fleet efficiency. For example, ‘Loch Portain’ is to have an upgraded pitch control and steering system, the hydraulic control gear for the bow visors on ‘Clansman’ and ‘Hebrides’ are being upgraded and navigation radar upgrades are taking place on ‘Argyll Flyer’, ‘Caledonian Isles’, ‘Lochnevis’, ‘Loch Tarbert’ and ‘Lord of the Isles’. A new set of stabiliser control equipment is also being fitted to ‘Hebrides’.
This year’s drydock schedule was planned with public consultation to minimise disruption to communities where possible.
‘While we recognise the annual overhaul replacement vessel deployments might not fully meet the aspirations of communities served, we are tightly constrained by the availability of vessels and need to work within the resources we have available.
‘Where we can we try to provide as seamless a service as possible during this period, matching suitable vessels to cover routes to keep inconvenience to a minimum. We appreciate the travelling public’s patience during this time,” added Morrison.
Last year CalMac carried more than 5.6 mill passengers and 1.4 mill vehicles. The fleet serves 28 routes to Scottish islands and remote mainland locations.