Argyll Ferries have issued the following statement on the improvement notice issued to it by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on arrangements for casualty recovery.
‘Argyll Ferries Managers and Transport Scotland officials met with the MCA yesterday (July 10) to clarify certain aspects of an improvement notice issued in respect of the exemption certificate to carry a rescue boat.
‘During the discussion the MCA confirmed to us that they were satisfied with MV Ali Cat and its operation as a passenger ferry on the Gourock- Dunoon route. The MCA said the vessel was fit for the purpose for which it was being used and was operated to a good standard.
”The MV Ali Cat and her crews have operated safely on the Gourock Dunoon route since 2002 and have extended that record of safe operation since becoming directly managed by Argyll Ferries Limited in June 2012.
‘The Improvement Notice applies only to an additional certificate (Exemption Certificate) to the vessels main operating license, which permits the vessel to operate without a rescue boat, subject to certain conditions being met.
‘This is a normal arrangement in small passenger ferries where it is practical to recover anyone in the water directly on to the ferry.
‘The MCA did not find any operational deficiencies with the capability of the vessel and crew to identify and recover a ‘casualty’ but have required administrative improvements through the issue of an Improvement Notice.
‘Argyll Ferries wishes to stress that the Exemption Certificate for the MV Ali Cat referred to above – and which has been the subject of some misleading and damaging speculation, has no bearing on her suitability or ability to sail in bad weather.
‘The MCA have confirmed that ultimately it is for the boat-master to make a professional judgment, taking into account all factors including current and forecast weather, as to whether conditions are ‘favourable’ and thereby decide if he should sail or not.
‘The Exemption Certificate solely relates to the operation of the MV Ali Cat without a rescue boat and the robustness of the arrangements for her crew to retrieve casualties from the water in the event of an incident.
‘Argyll Ferries Ltd. puts safety at the top of its priorities and takes the Notice in relation to the Exemption Certificate very seriously. All requested measures are being taken forward.
‘Customers can therefore be assured that she is operating safely and in accordance with all relevant MCA requirements and the Scottish Government contract.’