CalMac meets press at Riverside Transport Museum to announce submission of bid for CHFS contract

CalMac Ferries Ltd held a press session this morning, 7th March 2016, to announce that it has submitted its final bid to run the Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services. The tender process is now closed.

CalMac’s confident MD declared the company’s bid to be ‘outstanding’ and pledged ‘to deliver the best service yet’.

The long time and state-owned operator of these services chose a venue for this announcement that could hardly be more appropriate to their business. Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Transport Museum on the Clyde in Glasgow is groundbreaking in both design and engineering. It’s location is cheek by jowl with both the relics of the former shipbuilding industry with which the Clyde is synonymous; and the remaining BAE systems yards in operation at Govan and Scotstoun.

Out of sight is Ferguson Marine at Port Glasgow which the state owned  maritime asset holder, CMAL, supplier of the ferry fleet to the CHFS operator, has used to build thee diesel-electric hybrid ferries and from whom it has ordered two new 100m dual fuel ferries.

CalMac’s managing director Martin Dorchester said this morning that he is confident the bid now in will make the firm a clear winner when a decision is made in a few months’ time.

The current contract expires in September this year and the Scottish Government’s transport agency, Transport Scotland, has been running a stop-start competitive process to select a provider of the services from 1st October 2016, for an eye-popping period of up to eight years. It was halted in the approaches to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, lest the decision Transport Scotland were then minded to make cost angry pro-indy voters to turn away.

In the tende, CalMac is theoretically up against one other bidder for the £1 billion contract – the private sector Serco Caledonian, whose final bid was submitted a few weeks ago – marked by a public letter of thanks to islanders who had contributed insights and requests which had helped to shape that bid.

This tender has been  a ludicrously protracted and unedifyingly highly political process of challengeable fairness in which most were surprised that Serco chose to continue [with a For Argyll  reader describing the  company’s letter noted above as ‘an obituary to their bid’.

Scottish Ministers also chose to postpone the announcement of the winning bidder until late May – once again prioritisong political protection should the decision ruffle feathers. The Scottish Parliamentary Election takes place on 5th May 2016.

Martin Dorchester, says: ‘I believe the bid we submitted last week is an outstanding piece of work and makes a compelling case for CalMac to win this hugely important contract. I’m confident we will be the clear winner when a decision is reached in May and, if so, I’m determined that we’ll deliver our best service levels yet.

‘We’re very proud of CalMac’s rich heritage, but I’m even prouder of the internationally-recognised, customer-focused, ambitious, multi-award winning company we’ve become. Across the network our staff and crews work tirelessly to provide an efficient, reliable, and modern service to the individuals and communities who depend upon us every day.

‘CalMac will always put the lifeline ferry services and the needs of the remote communities we serve above any commercial concerns. Operating on the west coast is our principal reason to exist. Nobody knows these routes better than us and providing 130,000 sailings a year in some of the most challenging waters in Europe is impressive by any standards. I believe that our vast knowledge and experience of these routes makes CalMac the best qualified and the only credible operator of them now and in the future.’

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Related Articles & Comments

  • I wonder if Calmac took the opportunity to explain how it could be that were some cars belonging to crew members ‘parked’ on the Bute ferry recently, denying space to essential users of that service?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

    Robert Wakeham March 7, 2016 8:31 pm Reply
  • And that last paragraph by Martin Dorchester will not ring very true in South Uist whose lifeline service to Mallaig must be the worst performing in the Western World.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    Murdoch MacKenzie March 7, 2016 10:25 pm Reply
  • Lochboisdale-Mallaig is a no go again today, unfavourable wind conditions in Mallaig being quoted as the reason. It’s a 24kt Westerly which is falling as the day comes in. They say they will run the afternoon service.
    If their ships cannot operate this run, and they obviously cannot, then they need to seek alternatives or move the linkspan to where the vessel has more swinging room. It’s bad enough that the public pays the fares, but we need to draw the line at paying for idle ships.
    Large steamers and ferries have worked from Mallaig in the past but the harbour has been changed a lot over the years, especially in the fishing boom times. I just wonder if they took a decision that they would only be dealing with smaller ferries after the Skye Bridge opened.
    The South Uist folk need to get their MP and MSP onto Transport Scotland to get their required link made more durable, whether it remains in Mallaig or moves elsewhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    Murdoch MacKenzie March 8, 2016 8:47 am Reply
  • There was considerable disquiet on Mull re the severe decline in reliability of the Oban-Craignure service. The rate of cancellation had multiplied ten fold, and cancellations at the drop of a hat were causing extreme inconvenience. The company refused to accept that a culture of extreme timidity seemed to have pervaded, and trotted out the nationally standard ‘Elf n Safety excuses.
    Following intervention by the rather good Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, which put a great deal of effort into providing meteorological evidence that proved no link between service reliability and an imagined worsening of west coast weather, Mr Dorchester continued to deny company responsibility. This, even though he was left in no doubt that the feeling on the island was that another operator could not make the service worse.

    However, shortly afterwards,following an unacknowledged. (by the co) “Redeployment of staff” the problem is much alleviated.

    The problems which MM describes at Mallaig are similar to those at Oban,where the size of the modern vessels and number of services operated, combined with the alignment of the Linkspans have rendered the port hardly fit for purpose.

    The whole w coast ferry provision has,like so many other publicly funded bodies,become a monster which is almost out of control and us costing the taxpayer a ransom.
    A radical redesign of the entire operation is required,with much more private sector involvement. When shall we see it? Answers on a postcard please.
    In the meantime,as Mr Churchill said.”KEEP BUGGERING ON”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    HUGH JARDON March 8, 2016 10:57 am Reply
    • Would that have been the same Winston Churchill who deployed machine gun nests around Freedom Square,Glasgow?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

      Hugh Jazz March 8, 2016 11:02 am Reply
  • Thank you for your enlightened, illuminating and carefully considered contribution to the topic of CHFS provision.

    Yes, that would be the same Winston Spencer Churchill to whom you refer.
    An individual without whose ability to inspire a nation to put it’s collective shoulder to the wheel in its hour of greatest danger, and to make it believe that, against all odds, it would succeed, we might have found ourselves living in a very different regime today, and not in a good way.
    Given, however, the extreme fascism exhibited by many independence supporters, they might have found the German way quite palatable, as the mantra of a large cohort of that type is “our way or the highway”
    I find that the least appealing of all aspects of the drivers for independence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    HUGH JARDON March 8, 2016 11:36 am Reply
    • Churchill was hated in Glasgow during the war. He was chased out of Howden Engineering ,as the workers threw ball bearings at him.Same thing happened in Dundee.
      Please do some research about your great man!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

      Hugh Jazz March 8, 2016 1:37 pm Reply
  • Yet another thoughtful contribution on CHFS provision from our resident historian of convenient “facts”
    As always, he completely misses the point, ie. That the great MAJORITY of people, recognised what had to be done, buckled down, followed WSC and albeit at great cost, the war was won.

    Now what does that remind me of? Oh yes, INDY REF.

    ps. I very much doubt if Churchill would have been much troubled by the actions of a few Communist malcontents in glasgow, when the principal opposition was perhaps the most evil force the modern world had ever seen.
    Eggs and omelettes dear boy!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    HUGH JARDON March 8, 2016 2:21 pm Reply
  • Thank you for your contribution to the history of WS. You appear to have forgotten that Dundee offered WS the honour of the ‘Freedom of the City’, to which he replied with Churchillian elan.

    Now do us all a favour ..keep to the subject ie the Calmac, and the CHFS tender

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    SCOTNAT March 8, 2016 3:35 pm Reply
  • The Scottish government and the RMT have stitched up this tender in such a way that it is almost impossible for anybody but calmac to be awarded the contract despite the fact that their service is atrocious – the service to Port Ellen today has been diverted to Port Askaig because of what is reported as a very low tide in Port Ellen, even though the barley boat has managed to get into the same pier with something like 1500 tonnes of barley on board. the simple fact is that giving the contract to Serco cannot lead to a worse service than is currently offered by calmac.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    James Smith March 11, 2016 9:04 am Reply
    • I’ve been looking at the data expecting to find a reason for the diversion but nothing jumps out. There is certainly low tides but the worst ones are during the night, the one at midday is forecast to be slightly above chart datum. I notice that the tidal range at Port Ellen is less than a metre normally.
      I imagine that the 0945 sailing is the one they are worried about and can only assume that there may be another reason why they think the tide will fall sharper. My other feeling is that, as it is the Isle of Arran that is involved, this vessel has a problem with maneuvering. There were a couple of times when she was on the triangle that she held back when the Heb Isles was working fine, so I’m guessing that it’s the falling tide coupled with a problem that she is carrying.
      It would be so much better for Calmac’s image if they provided some clarity rather than a generalisation. The public will accept that there can be problems in the operation but if they think they are being fed a story they are not fooled.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      Murdoch MacKenzie March 11, 2016 10:49 am Reply
      • The Hebridean Isles is currently displayed on AIS as being en route from Port Askaig to Bowmore. Presumably someone thinks that Port Ellen has changed its name, or is Bowmore getting a treat today?.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Robert Wakeham March 11, 2016 12:44 pm Reply
      • According to the details on the CalMac website, the draughts of the Islay vessels are: Finlaggan 3.4m, Isle of Arran 3.2m and Hebridean Isles 3.11m. Is the tide a regular problem at Port Ellen?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Alex McKay March 11, 2016 12:52 pm Reply
    • James.
      The main problem at Port Ellen is that the barley boat is berthed at the preferred pier for Calmac ferries.
      Cmal own the pier at Port Ellen and Calmac ferries should have priority.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

      Treble T March 11, 2016 1:07 pm Reply
      • There are two linkspans at Port Ellen for use by the ferries, so why does the “barley boat” berth at them? How odd!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

        Alex McKay March 11, 2016 4:21 pm Reply
        • The barley boat can only use one berth at Port Ellen pier which also happens to be the preferred berth for Calmac ferries.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

          Treble T March 11, 2016 11:59 pm Reply
  • Service is now back to normal and the Heb Isles came down to Port Ellen from Port Askaig and is on the berth with the Islay Trader opposite.
    I doubt we’ll ever get the true story, they seem to be going out of their way to lose any goodwill that people still hold for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    Murdoch MacKenzie March 11, 2016 3:15 pm Reply
    • My recollection of Port Ellen is that only one side of the jetty has what passes for a linkspan, the other side having no more than a concrete ramp. Maybe I’m out of date.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Robert Wakeham March 11, 2016 3:36 pm Reply
      • I haven’t been to Port Ellen for many a year Robert, so I don’t know how they work.
        On the satellite map on AIS the Islay Trader is on the West side and the ferry is on the East side. When I open Google Maps the imagery is from 2009 and a ferry is also on the East side. Going into street view and coming as close as possible it looks like there is not a linkspan where the ferry is berthed. This is probably the concrete ramp that you refer to.
        There is a linkspan where the Islay Trader is berthed, or there was in 2009.
        It could be that with Port Ellen’s small tidal range the concrete ramp will work for some ships and normal tidal ranges. It might not have been suitable for the Isle of Arran especially since the tide at 0930 this morning was falling rapidly maybe leading to a situation where her ramp may not have had any vertical downward movement left in it and become damaged.
        Of course, if the cargo boat had been on this side and the linkspan kept free the tide would not have been a problem.
        I’m sure someone at Port Ellen will have got the real story by now.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

        Murdoch MacKenzie March 11, 2016 6:02 pm Reply
        • If the Islay Trader is berthed on the side with the linkspan, maybe that ship’s draught has something to do with it.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

          Robert Wakeham March 11, 2016 7:14 pm Reply
          • I think that’s the answer Robert. According to the vessel timeline on marinetraffic.com the Islay Trader was at 4.35 mtrs draft on the voyage. I’m assuming that the link span is still on the West side of the pier and the concrete ramp is still on the other side.
            They give her the West berth and then the Isle of Arran probably rejected using the concrete ramp on the fast ebbing tide this morning.
            The people who had to drive to Port Askaig need to claim a mileage payment from CMAL.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

            Murdoch MacKenzie March 11, 2016 10:52 pm
  • Was on the mid-day ferry yesterday{Isle of Arran} and an extremely low tide at Port Ellen. Took about 40 minutes to unload all the vehicles which was mostly cars so presume this was the reason for diversion today. That was at the linkspan Robert.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    James Walsh March 11, 2016 5:53 pm Reply
  • only one linkspan in port ellen and that is on the south side the berth the barley boat is on is concrete

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    hebisles March 11, 2016 6:56 pm Reply
  • Guess what? They have cancelled the 1400 sailing from Lochboisdale to Mallaig again today and the excuse is Low Tides at LochBoisdale. That seems to be this weeks favourite showstopper. Why could she not do the run at 1600 when the tide would have already filled to about 1/2 a mtr. above datum? Two hours extra duty would not kill them.
    I wonder how many people went over in the morning planning to return on the evening sailing. They will now have to overnight and make other plans as the next ferry is Tuesday. It’s the same for all those booked for the two cancelled sailings.
    It’s more Deadline than Lifeline. I wonder how many businesses they have bankrupted this winter? They have to be removed from their padded positions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    Murdoch MacKenzie March 12, 2016 5:10 pm Reply
    • I should add that this practice of declaring a sailing cancelled on the day because of low tides is totally inexcusable, and any sailor doing so should be hanging his head in shame.
      Tidal Almanacs will be carried on every ferry in the fleet and should be checked against the timetables to look for problems days in advance so that alternative arrangements and timetable changes can be given to travellers. Even Para Handy would know that back in his day, if not Dougie, himself, would tell him.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      Murdoch MacKenzie March 12, 2016 5:29 pm Reply
      • This is the self declared excellence and experience brought to you by Calmac. An example of their staff and crew working tirelessly, or effortlessly perhaps? They are probably right, no other operator can deliver what they can, none would get away with it. Did a change of crew on the Mull route also miraculously change the fortunes of that route? If so, the route, weather and boat hasn’t changed, which points to weak management, poor training and just being asleep on the job.
        Time for a change of management at the operator and much more robust contract management by Transport Scotland, who I’m sure just suck up all the bull they are fed by a company the Minister owns anyway. Hardly the greatest arrangement for good governance, robust challenge or worrying too much about the no-risk money-go-round funded by the bottomless pocket of the taxpayer.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

        Jerry McIver March 13, 2016 2:54 pm Reply
        • Well said Jerry, it seems that some of the crews are latching onto any problem and cancelling services instead of re-scheduling them to help their customers. It’s an absolutely disgraceful standard of service.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

          Murdoch MacKenzie March 13, 2016 10:35 pm Reply
          • Didums, did you get inconvenienced by the low spring tides? Well so did I at McInroys Point the other evening. I arrived to find 2 ferries tied up and a full car park. The reason being that the articulation on the ramps had reached its limits.

            Did I, or anybody else (as far as I could tell) complain? No, we waited for the tide to rise sufficiently to permit the service to restart.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

            JimB March 14, 2016 8:28 am
          • Exactly, Dumdums. They waited for the tide to rise and continued ferrying the waiting public, and of course making the money that only ferrying brings into the company.
            Calmac just cancel the service instead of delaying it for two hours. They don’t care about their clients or their businesses and they certainly don’t care about the loss of revenue, the taxpayers will cough up. They turn to the Uist folk and say, C U Next Tuesday Suckers.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

            Murdoch MacKenzie March 14, 2016 11:09 am
  • It’s rumoured Serco north link staff have been given 8
    Notice of change of contract , has the stitch up of the chfs been awarded to Serco , only a week after the closing date !!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Big jock is of the knowledge March 14, 2016 5:53 am Reply

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