A ferry mysterious tale

CalMac Ferries today, 17th August, made strategic use of Port Askaig.

With Islay’s principal ferry, MV Finlaggan, out of service with a technical issue, the west coast ferry operator abandoned the use of Port Ellen for the day and ran all of its services from Kennacraig into Port Askaig in the Sound of Islay. This took tactical advantage of the shorter passage time to Port Askaig, limiting the disruption to the island’s service.

This strategy has long been publicly recommended by Gordon Ross, MD of Western Ferries, with a special interest in Islay since Western pioneered services to the island in its first incarnation. In his address at the Dunoon launch of Roy Pedersen’s book, Western Ferries: Taking on Giants, Mr Ross said: ‘For my part, the shortest route will always be the favoured route. This allows for the shortest crossing times, the greatest frequency of service, and increases the likelihood for island visitors. Increased numbers of visitors is good for everyone on Islay. Good for local businesses and for those that are employed by these companies.

‘This is especially true when there is any disruption to the normal service.’

Watching CalMac’s final acceptance of this wisdom in practice today brought back to mind an interesting tale we were told at this same book launch.

The Pedersen book, of course, catalogues the aggressive actions taken in the latter part of the 20th century by the government of the day and its public sector ferry provider, Caledonian MacBrayne against the inventive upstart on the scene. Western Ferries.

This appears a story of dark corporate fratricide, with the deep pockets of the public purse deployed by the state  – while taking Western Ferries’ taxes, to increase the subsidies under which Caledonian MacBrayne operated until Western Ferries was burned out of  business on the Islay route.

Anyway, back to the point – the story we were told was that the MD of today’s CalMac, Martin Dorchester, is said to have invited the Western Ferries MD, a markedly successful ferry operator, to join CalMac.

The conclusion to the story was that Mr Ross had declined the offer, saying that the only job in CalMac that might interest him was Mr Dorchester’s – and clearly that was not what the CalMac boss had in mind.

For Argyll has asked both parties to confirm or deny this story. Mr Ross laughed but said nothing. CalMac ‘couldn’t remember’.

In our book this story plays positively for CalMac, showing its MD immune to ancient rivalries which predated his arrival, an astute talent spotter willing at least to ask the question in pursuit of improving the company’s capability.

The tale may well be apochryphal – but it was convincingly told.

If the offer was made – had it been accepted, the direction of Mr Pedersen’s narrative would have taken on a novel twist.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • calmac did not abandon port ellen today as the scheduled 0945 left port ellen as usual and the loti coming from oban this morning used port askaig on its way to kennacraig which made sense.all other sailings on a tuesday are scheduled to and from port askaig with the exception of the 1230 from port ellen which was the sailing which the loti did today. get your facts right newsie

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

    d hastie August 17, 2015 7:29 pm Reply
    • We have been guided by what CalMac published on their Islay Service Status situation statement this morning – which we also published then in Today’s Travel Updates.
      CalMac said: ‘Due to a technical issue with MV Finlaggan, the 07:00 sailing from Port Ellen and the 09:45 from Kennacraig have been cancelled. The 12:30 sailing from Islay will now depart from Port Askaig and not Port Ellen as timetabled. Normal two ferry service will resume from mid day with the 13:00 sailing from Kennacraig. The additional sailing from Oban to Port Askaig will now depart at approx 08:30. Check in by 07:45.’
      On CalMac’s 19.21 update they say: ‘All sailings will arrive and depart at Port Askaig NOT Port Ellen.
      ‘There will be two additional sailings at 2030. One leaving Kennacraig for Port Askaig and one leaving Port Askaig for Kennacraig.’

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

      newsroom August 17, 2015 7:51 pm Reply
  • It looks like the Lord of the Isles’s turn for “technical difficulties, but it’s only the Lifeline services to South Uist and Colonsay that are affected so no sweat. Three ferries to Lewis and Harris, two to Islay and two to Arran, got to keep the Lifestyle services going full steam.
    These ferries and their subsidies drive a coach and horses through the trades description acts.
    The Lifeline ferries should be managed and maintained on the Islands they serve. The locals would keep them on their toes.
    When the Finlagan broke down earlier in the week LochBoisdale saw a service cancelled, “for operational reasons”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Murdoch MacKenzie August 21, 2015 12:58 pm Reply

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