Transport Minister says next Gourock Dunoon ferry contract will bring bigger vessels to the route

Humza Yusaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, has announced that the next contract for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service will bring more resilient vessels to the route.

A Contract Notice has been published today, announcing Transpot Scotland’s intention to run a procurement for the next contract which is due to begin in June 2017. The new contract will run for 12 years.

As part of this procurement, the tender document will specify that the next operator will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. This will bring greater resilience to the service, particularly during adverse weather conditions. Additionally, performance deductions will be applied for avoidable service disruption.

Bidders will be asked to tender for a passenger service, whilst being encouraged to provide an unsubsidised vehicle carrying service. The contract will also feature a continued commitment to half-hourly crossings on the route.

Interested parties will be invited to submit formal tenders later this summer, with a view to awarding the contract in Spring 2017.

Mr Yousaf says: ‘The publication of this Contract Notice fires the starting gun on the tender exercise for the next Gourock-Dunoon ferry services contract.

‘Following close consultation with local stakeholders, we have specified that bidders will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. This will help address the current issue of reliability on the service, and offer greater resilience during periods of adverse weather.

‘The 40 metre specification may require a potential bidder to make a significant capital investment. Tendering for a 12-year contract will make this a more attractive option, allowing bidders a greater length of time to see a return on that investment.

‘The Scottish Government’s wish is to see a passenger and vehicle service operating between Gourock and Dunoon. That is why we are encouraging bidders to operate a commercial vehicle carrying service, alongside a subsidised passenger service.

‘This tender underlines the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service. It will retain the current timetable of half-hourly crossings and will also seek bidders views on potential improvements to harbour infrastructure at both ends of the route.

‘We want this new contract to provide greater support to the communities that rely on this important transport link. By bringing more resilient vessels to the route and continuing to invest in harbour infrastructure, we hope to make tangible improvements to the service and continue to support the economies in Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde.’

While it may be the Scottish government’s wish to see a vehicle and passenger service on this route, while the 12 year contract period may enable investment in vessels and while the 40 metre length stipulation may also support the provision of an unsubsidised vehicle service, a passenger and vehicle carrier will be heavier, more expensive to construct and more fuel hungry, cutting into profits on the subsidised passenger service.

It will be interesting to see how any ferry operator sees the business case for taking on the successful and highly competitive private sector Western Ferries vehicle service on the route – which is a 20 minute four boat shuttle as opposed to a half hour  two boat crossing from bottle neck to bottle neck.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Beyond parody. Words fail me.

    And that’s unusual.

    I’m away out, but maybe someone can provide some information what sort of passenger vessels are available over 40m?
    The Scottish Government are being played for fools. #clueless

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

    JB July 8, 2016 6:29 pm Reply
    • I think the length stipulation is because the ferry action group demanded it be included this time. You may assume that they think that this will encourage operators to tender for a vehicular service. The 40 meter length is approx just 10 meters short of the Western ships. The action group also want long leases for both terminals to encourage operators. Any else thinking that this stipulation may well prevent any operators from tendering? Time will tell.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

      Dunoon Lad July 8, 2016 8:20 pm Reply
  • Not sure that 40m minimum length will necessarily make the service more reliable, but it will certainly make it more expensive, as will unnecessary provision for vehicle carriage. Get a good passenger-only design, and perhaps it could also be used elsewhere in the Clyde Estuary.
    Not a word, either, about berthing arrangements, which are essential in ensuring reliability.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

    Arthur Blue July 8, 2016 9:04 pm Reply
  • Other than a longer contract term I can’t see any new enticement to bid over the last tender which attracted no interest; there isn’t a business case for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    db July 8, 2016 10:04 pm Reply
    • The Ferry Action Group should be asked to put their own money into a partnership bid with an operator to run the route. They can shout all they like but they have nothing to loose.

      They need to put up and risk some real losses for their cause or shut up before any sense comes to this whole issue.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

      Jerry McIver July 9, 2016 3:10 pm Reply
    • Say two new build ships at total approx £10 million, the operator would have to make a profit of around £850.000 each and every year of the contract, just to pay for the ships. Operator would also presumably be looking to make a profit on top of that as well, otherwise what’s the point of them operating.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

      Dunoon Lad July 12, 2016 6:32 pm Reply
      • Interesting that the new contract is worth 50 million, four companies will be invited to tender, and Kilcreggan may be included. 40 metre boats landing vehicles at Kilcreggan?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

        Dunoon Lad July 13, 2016 9:18 pm Reply
  • Well, the Coruisk is 50m and that made not a jot of a difference

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    Waboab July 8, 2016 10:14 pm Reply
    • Exactly. What an absolutely daft stipulation – as you say Dunoon lad, maybe it’s to try force an operator to use a car ferry, but I simply can’t see any operator doing that.

      And to echo your point Arthur – the issue here is not the length of the vessel, or the type, it’s how it can berth (at Dunoon) in poor weather. The Solent Cat goes out on the Solent in all weathers, because at each end the berth is sheltered.

      Ah well, more taxpayers money down the drain for little real reward. What might have been – we can forget doing something clever with Kilcreggan that would save tax payers money and deliver a better service for all.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

      JB July 8, 2016 10:35 pm Reply
      • Not sure about how well Gourock is/could be sheltered, but maybe a better route would be from a sheltered Hunter’s Quay, to Gourock, Kilgreggan, Helensburgh etc. An hourly bus to and from Dunoon would surely make it a good service.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

        Dunoon Lad July 8, 2016 11:54 pm Reply
      • CalMac want a linkspan at Gourock for emergency diversions from Wemyss Bay, and it can possibly be argued that there is a similar case for a Dunoon linkspan in case of some major failure at Hunter’s Quay. All of which costs money, of course, with no regular contribution to revenue.
        Any passenger vessels really need their own berthing arrangements, ideally ones which are a) sheltered, and b) rise and fall with the tide ( to simplify gangway and mooring rope issues ).
        Dunoon Pier is really a matter for Heritage Scotland, and shouldn’t be allowed to complicate today’s ferry operations.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        Arthur Blue July 15, 2016 11:08 am Reply
    • I’ve since been corrected.
      Coruisk is in actual fact 65m and still is little to no service improvement when she’s on

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

      Waboab July 9, 2016 4:25 pm Reply
    • Coruisk is 65m in length

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      Kirsty Robertson July 9, 2016 4:37 pm Reply
  • There’s something about that word “stakeholders” that suggests that these transport ministers are listening to people with agendas and not making their decisions for the good of the public.
    A subsidised passenger ferry service is going to carry non-subsidised vehicles in competition with the existing non-subsidised passenger and vehicle service. That might work post Brexit, so we have to ask if the SNP are not expecting to stay in Europe where it will break the existing competition rules?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    Murdoch MacKenzie July 9, 2016 8:47 am Reply
  • ‘Bidders will be ask for’. Thats optimistic. David MacBrayne may be compelled to bid but I doubt anyone else will have the slightest interest unless offered with zero risk and a guaranteed profit, i.e., a management fee to run it.

    Unless Transport Scotland can offer absolute protection from any (and inevitable) commercial response from Western Ferries, the risks are going to be too high for any commercial operator and their need for financial return for taking that risk will be well in excess of what Transport Scotland will accept.

    There is no market failure here. The route has no grounds whatsoever for any public money being put into it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    Jerry McIver July 9, 2016 3:05 pm Reply
  • Have to agree with you Jerry. Think the main issue here is that the Government for some unknown reason, seem to be listening to the ferry action group, who are realistically made up of only a few hundred at most people. Their group I’m sure, are not pursuing what the population of Cowal ( c 8000 ) voted for many years ago, and used Western’s services far more than Cal Mac’s. Yes, push for a reliable passenger service, but the group have wasted several years, after how many tenders that told them that no operater was there for a vehicle service.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    Dunoon Lad July 9, 2016 10:49 pm Reply
  • In these times of supposed austerity, does no-one find it rather sickening that this so-called Ferry Action Group want a Gold Plated ferry service?

    It’s already excellent as it is.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

    JB July 10, 2016 8:19 am Reply
  • Gold plated ferry service?

    These Dunoon Ferry Action Group people should live on Coll. Then they would know about ferry services – only 2 a day! Better still St Kilda – only 3 a week in summer!

    What about Tristan da Cunha – that is even worse with just 2 a month but none in winter!

    No put them Ferry Action types down the South Pole! Yep stick them at the South Pole – preferably naked – then they would be thankful for what they have got!

    Just who do they think they are?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Mick July 10, 2016 12:48 pm Reply
  • The Ferry Action Group are totally out of touch with reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    Alison Catamaran July 11, 2016 9:29 am Reply
  • When is a service not a service? That’s something that does not seem to mean much to Transport Scotland.
    There is a music festival in Stornoway this week, so if you have to travel there for any reason, well tough luck. Lewis and Harris are going to be hard to get to until next week at least.
    Stornoway – The next booking available is Saturday evening.
    Tarbert, Harris – There is a booking available on Thursday evening’s sailing and that’s it until Monday morning.
    Have they looked at squeezing extra sailings out of their £60Mn flagship? She does six crossings a day at 2hrs 20mins each, that’s 14 hrs sailing time and 10hrs dwell time per day or an average of 1hr 40mins turnaround time.
    I’m sure they could do an extra run every 2nd day and still leave enough slack in the system for unexpected hiccups. If they really tried she could do four return journeys two days out of three, maybe trying is too big an ask.
    They also have the underused Isle of Lewis leaving Barra at 0800 every day and coming back at 1830. Why do they not start at 0630 and when they get back to Barra she could head up for Lochmaddy/Uig and do the North Uist evening run allowing the Hebrides to do an extra Tarbert run (Lochmaddy is not tide restricted for IOL).
    Of course it is unlikely that they will do any of these things as they do not care who gets left behind when their ferries are filled with people who are enjoying the fruits of RET.
    People who need to travel on an urgent bases and who cannot get on to the ferries should use air travel and send an invoice to the Transport Minister for the £400 plus the taxi or car hire costs, less the RET equivalent, of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    Murdoch MacKenzie July 13, 2016 11:10 am Reply
    • More of the same. There is also a music festival in Tiree this weekend, so the bold Calmac have commandeered the vessel allocated to today’s Colonsay run from Oban to take visitors out there.
      Any usage of the term “lifeline service” has, as on the Lewis and Harris services, been shown for the lie that it is.
      If they need a vessel for Tiree, I’m sure they could have run it into the night after they had provided their timetabled services. That would be doing an extra sailing and would show some commitment to all their users.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      Murdoch MacKenzie July 14, 2016 9:34 am Reply
      • Presumably, stretching the hours in a ship’s day beyond a certain number requires another crew, and I wonder if perhaps this is a major limiting factor in Calmac’s ability to augment their services?
        When you look at the development of driverless cars, maybe there’ll even come a day when we have crewless ferries – but it’d be difficult to imagine.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

        Robert Wakeham July 14, 2016 10:31 am Reply
        • The technology will already be installed that can do most of the navigation and other tasks but there will still be a need for watch keeping as technology has it’s limitations if a signal or power supply was lost, and of course there will be anti-collision alarms from the radar and AIS. We’ve just heard of the fatal crash of the driverless car in the States.
          Looking at some of the AIS tracks for the shuttle ferry routes you will notice that they do not follow an exact path each time. This suggest that they use the auto pilot on a heading but do not use the route function that would maintain an exact path in open water, they may use it in closer confines but the deck officer will be standing there ready to take over if need be.
          I would think that the ships are manned for 24 hours operation as delays, breakdowns or weather could lead to that situation at any time.
          I know that Clansman did night runs to Barra when the IOL had her oil cooler problem, they may have called in a few extra crew from leave or transferred a few from the IOL for the duration.
          There will always be a way if they wanted to run an extra sailing. They’ve known these events were happening and that they would be struggling to meet the demand.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

          Murdoch MacKenzie July 14, 2016 11:10 am Reply
    • The big 600-car ferries on the Storebaelt crossing – before the bridge – used to be able to turn round in half an hour.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Arthur Blue July 15, 2016 11:12 am Reply
  • Isle of Lewis said it stayed overnight at Castlebay following the summer timetable of the 8:00 ex Castlebay and the 13:40 ex Oban every day. the winter timetable on the Oban-Castlebay a different relief vessel while Isle of Lewis goes for either overhaul or rebuld the ship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

    Scott Smith July 14, 2016 12:40 am Reply
  • winter timetable 2016/17 about 24th october 2016 a different relief vessel to cover while other ferries for annual 2017 overhaul

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    Scott Smith July 15, 2016 5:58 pm Reply

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