Argyll Ferries delighted to assist Cowal Games

An Argyll Ferries spokesman,  responding to the successful completion of the company’s  special service schedule to support the attraction of the annual Cowal Gathering to visitors, has just said:

‘The special arrangements we put in place for the Cowal Games all worked as planned and we coped well with the increased traffic throughout the day.

‘We are pleased to have been able to play our part in the success of the Games and look forward to doing so again next year.’

This success comes against the background of the most perverse and damaging campaign of audience alienation for Argyll’s biggest annual event and a crucial economic support for Dunoon and Cowal.

The Dunoon fantasists remain determined – against EU and competition law and against the commercial logic of endemic unprofitability – to campaign for a second vehicle and passenger service on the town centre route between Gouock and Dunoon.

To assist their  fantasy purpose, they have engaged in persistent and unjustifiable scaremongering on the safety of MV Ali Cat, Argyll Ferries’ passenger ferry now running the route – with no care whatsoever for how that might impact on audiences thinking of coming over for the Cowal Games.

These economic kamikazes can only hope that the audience figures for the 2012 Gathering are not down.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Newsroom is right on the mark.
    The campaigners would have been happy to see the Cowal games damaged just to add weight to their ridiculous demands.
    The DGFAG committee should apologise to the games committee and the cowal community for their short sighted scare tactics. Both Argyll and Western have done a great job to support the games and they and their employees should be thanked.
    Now Just waiting for the DGFAG secret bloggers to start marking the thumbs down. So that must be about 8 red thumbs.

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    Peter Wade August 26, 2012 10:16 pm Reply
  • Yes, glad it all went to plan. Both companies did a magnificiant job on the day. Saying that, if the weather had turned nasty, it would have been a different outcome. Argyll Ferries did say that they had a back up plan, but as they never said what it was, who knows what would have happened!

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    DunoonLad August 27, 2012 8:44 am Reply
  • No one in DGFAG wanted the games to be disrupted because the ferries were unable to operate due to weather. They asked for a robust solution to any weather conditions to be in place i.e. boats of a sufficient tonnage and size to cope with adverse weather conditions as forecast last Tuesday. AF were lucky the forecast weather was delayed and has arrived today and guess what their status is “Disrupted”. What would that have done to the Games. So Mr Wade get your facts right and Newsroom should now come clean and tell us who backs their biased outpourings could it be another ferry company I wonder? What is wrong in wanting robust competition on what is the busiest ferry route in Scotland.

    “The Dunoon fantasists remain determined – against EU and competition law and against the commercial logic of endemic unprofitability – to campaign for a second vehicle and passenger service on the town centre route between Gouock and Dunoon.”

    Simply inaccurate the EU is actively pro competition; the streakers vehicle side made unsubsidised profits every year. There is nothing in EU law that precludes a vehicle and passenger service on this route providing that the vehicle service part is unsubsidised. If you are purporting to be a proper news purveyor then you have a duty to be balanced and accurate and not a propagandist for one company.

    “To assist their fantasy purpose, they have engaged in persistent and unjustifiable scaremongering on the safety of MV Ali Cat, Argyll Ferries’ passenger ferry now running the route – with no care whatsoever for how that might impact on audiences thinking of coming over for the Cowal Games.”

    Why then are the MCA taking the unprecedented steps of investigating The Ali Cat and the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure stating “it is not fit for purpose”

    It certainly suits the competition to perpetuate these myths running a service now not coping with the volume of traffic; a volume that is predicted to increase over future years. A competition that had a ludicrous hidden service subsidy since its inception by the restrictions imposed on CalMac service by the Thatcher Government. Who now want a monopoly which in itself is anathema to the EU.

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    Kay Bee August 27, 2012 9:46 am Reply
    • For Argyll is funded by no one beyond itself. It therefore owes nothing to anyone and cannot either be bought or frightened off by anyone over anything. That includes the sort of cheap insults to which we are accustomed from the usual suspects and which affect us not one jot.

      In terms of the Dunoon-Gourock Ferries Action Group and supporters – they are becoming a sort of Fifth Column, destroying Dunoon from within, a place from which no one else could undermine it half as successfully.

      Thanks to their scaremongering and their endless hunger for screaming headlines, they have – as well as needlessly terrifying the travelling residents of Dunoon – left the general public with the single impression that travelling to Dunoon by ferry – any ferry – is unsafe. All the public know is that there is a problem with the ferries to Dunoon.

      In this mindless campaign, the fantasists’ impact on the public has been accelerated by an astonishingly ill judged and inflammatory series of media statements from Argyll and Bute’s own MSP. Where on earth is the sense in shooting out one’s own constituency?

      This joint campaign of the like minded is targeted – potentially libellously – on Argyll Ferries. This is a business service specified and tendered by the government of which Mr Russell is a senior member – and awarded by that government to the company, brought into being for the purpose and of which, as a Scottish Minister, he is a shareholder. He is complicit in every aspect of the situation of which he so loudly complains.

      ‘Cloud cuckoo land’ doesn’t come close.

      Mr Russell has been joined in the caucus by Alex Neil Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment. Mr Neil, also a shareholder of Argyll Ferries and its parent company, David MacBrayne Limited, has seen fit publicly to describe the Argytll Ferries boat, MV Ali Cat as ‘not fit for purpose’.

      We challenge Mr Neil to define in what exact ways he sees this to be the case. If, as a shareholder in the company that owns the boat and as the Cabinet Minister in whose responsibility transport falls, he has a legally substantiateable case for what he has said, it is professionally incumbent upon him, in the interests of public safety, to withdraw the Ali Cat from service, even if that leaves Dunoon with a single passenger ferry until such time as a second boat is found. He has no choice.

      To the best of our knowledge no passenger has been injured on either an Argyll Ferries crossing or a Western ferries crossing. Both are resolutely safe services. This does not mean that their crossings are always fun. Water is a mobile environment.

      No passenger ferry today – with the fuel cost issue and its impact on ticket prices – is a heavy boat. This does not make them less safe. It just means that their relationship with the water is more buoyant.

      if Dunoon were to be given a heavy passenger boat the fares would be so expensive no one would use it – or the subsidy so extravagant the government could neither afford nor defend it.

      Dunoon has already been identified in the 2012 Rural Scotland in Focus Report as the joint most economically vulnerable community in Scotland.

      The last thing that Dunoon can afford is a group of irrational fantasists screaming from within to the heavens about how hard, terrifying and unsafe it is to get to Dunoon. This can only kill what modest business the town has.

      We have shown in heavily researched articles, that for reasons of law and commercial logic, there cannot be a second vehicle and passenger service running between Gourock and Dunoon. We have also shown that the passenger and vehicle shifting capacity Dunoon has at its disposal is beyond the dreams of any Scottish island. It is massively over supplied and massively undersubcribed. Indeed, as we have said, city dwellers could not catch a bus route as frequently as Dunoon residents could take a ferry.

      As you say, the weather for the Cowal Games this year was good. The Gathering is a well publicised, nationally and internationally known and loved annual event of major proportions.

      If its audiences are down this year, the ferry fantasists will have a lot to answer for locally – except that of course it will have been someone else’s fault, rather than their own. (Probably ours and our secret funding from a handful of fantasy Donald Trumps who see Dunoon as a rival to Balmenie.)

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      newsroom August 27, 2012 2:22 pm Reply
      • Newsroom: “if Dunoon were to be given a heavy passenger boat the fares would be so expensive no one would use it – or the subsidy so extravagant the government could neither afford nor defend it.”

        Glad you are finally beginning to understand the issue. Small boats cannot operate reliably, they were off again today – unheard of in previous years. Large boats carrying only passengers would be stupidly expensive, they need to carry vehicles.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 7:55 pm Reply
        • At last, a conversation like this is Ali Cat nip to some. I smell DGFAG.

          Larger passenger ferries or ferries capable of taking cars are both going to cost more than the current subsidy cost. How do you solve that one.

          Perhaps more FOIs?

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          Peter Wade August 27, 2012 8:04 pm Reply
          • I don’t need to solve it, it is Alex Neil that has to resolve the problem.

            All the politicians played pass the parcel with the ferries, but the music stopped when the SNP that went back on their promise to supply vehicle ferries. That would have been okay if they had put in a usable passenger only service but they have admitted it is not fit for purpose.

            One way or another they have to fix it.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 9:02 pm
      • Newsroom (aka soapbox) “For Argyll is funded by no one beyond itself.” So what is “itself” is it a company and who are the shareholders? Are you just hobbyists who run at a loss?

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 8:10 pm Reply
    • KB, are you suggesting that Western is bankrolling 4Argyll?

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      donald mcdonald August 27, 2012 2:49 pm Reply
    • “What is wrong in wanting robust competition on what is the busiest ferry route in Scotland.”

      Absolutely nothing at all. But what is beyond me – and perhaps you could explain in clear, concise English – is why a successful, private operator should have a competing service funded by the taxpayer? And don’t come back with the old (nonsensical) arguement that the previous vehicle service “made money”. It did not. The vehicle carrying element did not take into account the cost of vessel, pier, staff and fuel provision. Add that into the equation, as any sensible economist would do, and you get a very different picture.

      By all accounts, despite the fervent wishes of those on various groups and websites that there would be serious disruption over the weekend, both ferry companies did a fantastic (not fantasist – a similar looking word!) job, with vehicle traffic in particular being handled very efficiently indeed.

      No doubt the ferry companies will issue figures into the public domain before long, but it strikes me that perhaps the passenger ferries were a little quieter as their third boat did not start running until lunchtime. Did too many people hear (and listen to) rumours that the ‘bath tub boats’ would be off? If so, then the scaremongers should hang their heads in shame.

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      Jim Williamson August 27, 2012 3:19 pm Reply
      • Because it is unacceptable for major component of the transport infrastructure to be in the hands of private monopoly with no control over prices. Tolls on the Skye bridge were deemed unacceptable but they were a fraction of our ferry charges. The Forth road bridges are free.

        If private profits are monitored and capped at a “fair” level that is fine, otherwise competition is needed.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 7:59 pm Reply
        • And there we are, the real rub.

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          Peter Wade August 27, 2012 8:07 pm Reply
          • There is no “real rub”, that is what I have been saying all along on this blog.

            Airlines are a good example. It is easier to run a high cost, low volume airline because you need fewer planes, and pilots, and have less passengers to deal with.

            You can however run a low cost, high volume airline and make the same profit, but why bother if you have no competition.

            Western Ferries looks like it is high cost low volume. It makes no difference to them, but it strangles the rest of the local economy because there are fewer visitors and any goods coming into the area by ferry incur higher transport costs.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 8:53 pm
          • Ferryman: whatever you think of WF, to term them ‘low volume’ is pushing the bounds of your credibility.

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            Robert Wakeham August 27, 2012 9:49 pm
          • RW: Dunoon is a pleasant seaside town within spitting distance of a major city. The ferry crossing itself can be an enjoyable experience. Dunoon could easily attract many short break weekend visitors, were it not for the cost of ferries.

            On the same theme I find it hard to believe that there are any Dunoon residents who have not felt that family members would visit them more frequently were it not for the ferry costs.

            So yes the ferries to Dunoon have for many years operated on a low volume high cost model because we have never had effective competition.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 10:21 pm
        • Okay. Cap those profits and prevent Western ferries from using their own money to build new boats?

          Aye – that makes a lot of sense now.

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          Jim Williamson August 27, 2012 10:46 pm Reply
          • A fair profit would let them invest. I don’t mind if you cap the profit or have competition, but you need one or the other.

            Personally I want two healthy competing ferry services. I have had to take my car across a few times in the last fortnight and it is not cheap even with a book of tickets.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 11:38 pm
        • Forth road bridge did have tolls. you paid north bound. the tolls were removed feb 2008

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          A T August 31, 2012 8:38 pm Reply
    • Kay Bee, so who is this secret backer? I presume you mean it’s the bogey man (western ferries).

      If Alex Neil thinks that the Ali cat is not fit, why is it still on the route? Again if the MCA have any issues then they would have stopped Argyll from using it.

      No response as yet to the other questions asked following your piece, has the Ali Cat got your tongue? Or do you accept that your statement is not fit for purpose.

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      Peter Wade August 27, 2012 6:12 pm Reply
      • The MCA appear to have said they are now conducting an investigation that might lead to a prosecution.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 9:08 pm Reply
        • If there was a problem the Ali cat would have been pulled.

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          Peter Wade August 27, 2012 9:10 pm Reply
          • The Ali Cat has a condition that it should only sail in “fine, clear, settled weather”.

            I feel very sorry for the skippers. There are given bathtubs that are not up to the job, but it is probably them that will face prosecution. They are damned if they take the bathtub out and damned if they don’t.

            Also, correct me if I am wrong, but when the Ali Cat ran alongside the streakers the Council banned her from operating in waves over 0.5m, that is up to my knees.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 9:25 pm
        • Where does this statement appear, and how can the council impose restrictions on a ferry service over which they have no authority?

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          awsnews August 28, 2012 8:14 am Reply
      • For Peter Wade

        One can only assume you have never been on AliCat during chop on the estuary. It is far from a pleasant experience – as a passenger.

        I am a ‘boaty person’, logically convinced Ali Cat is safe. But as a ‘boaty person’ I would never, ever, inflict my friends or family with the ride of the Ali Cat hull in choppy waters. As a passenger who knows boats, it is truly frightening. For a punter who doesn’t know boats, one can only hope they’ve zero imagination and strong hearts.
        Personally, I’d pilot the Ali Cat anywhere BUT without passengers.

        Ali Cat has no place on the estuary UNLESS the crossing is in calm waters. The other boat isn’t much better from a comfort viewpoint. Neither hull has the right shape or weight to cope.

        Final caveat. I am not screaming for a car ferry.
        Happy with “the idea of a passenger ferry” but would wish for hull quality substantially more sea and berthing competent than those Argyll Ferry’s dug up from the old-parts bin.

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        Grant MacDonald September 1, 2012 2:56 am Reply
  • Newsroom, I nearly always understand your posts about the ferry situation until – the “experts” post saying your stating rubbish facts! Surely there must be a definitive answer to all this. Is it permissible or not for the Government to build new vehicle/passenger and then offer them for lease to any successful bidder? Saying that, if it was allowed, would the lease costs be affordable and allow a company to run a profitable service using them – without any subsidy? Seems a simple enough question to answer, but there is always conflicting answers!

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    DunoonLad August 27, 2012 6:28 pm Reply
    • The simple answer is no. There is no justification or need for the state to buy ferries that could carry vehicles for a passenger only service.

      The “experts” argue on the basis that the larger boats being more weather proof hence reliable. They then say that a larger vessel would attract lower subsidy as it carries cars. The first issue is debatable as larger ferries go off service as well. The second part is definitely not true.

      The real unspoken agenda is to provide competition, but the state can’t subsidise a vehicle service.

      Waiting again for the red thumbs. No response from Kay Bee yet?

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      Peter Wade August 27, 2012 7:37 pm Reply
      • I presume you never used the Ali Cat when it sailed alongside the streakers? The Ali Cat would cancel due to the weather but thankfully the streakers kept on running. Of course there were times when the weather defeated the streakers but they were infrequent and everybody would agree conditions were bad. Now that we only have small bathtubs the service can be off in conditions which are very far from bad, and in which Western (with larger vessels) can happily sail on.
        You will note that the Western vessels carry close to the same number of passengers as the bathtubs, using roughly the same number of crew, but of course they also carry vehicles and hence make a nice profit.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 8:05 pm Reply
        • There are still major differences between the two that all have a cost implication.

          With regards the visitor numbers the DGFAG hate campaign is not helping. The number of trucks using Calmac’s service was tiny, because western was always cheaper. Therefore you are wrong about the effect of removing the vehicle service.

          If you have faith in Alex Neil and a solution it’s time to stop attacking Argyll. I think he is well aware of your campaign. Now you and dgfag are damaging the whole community and any chance of the solution you crave.

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          Peter Wade August 27, 2012 9:43 pm Reply
          • I came across forArgyll by chance, I only post here to contradict the nonsense put forward by Newsroom, who if I remember correctly though water taxis would be a simply marvelous idea for the Firth of Clyde!

            It has been noted by several posters on completely unrelated threads that Newsroom posts a lot of waffle, believes it is infallible and is completely incapable of admitting to a mistake. The passenger only ferries, as delivered, are a mistake because they do not run. However Newsroom cannot seem to grasp that.

            I think CalMac carried more commercial traffic than might be supposed, but I don’t have any figures. However as always they were crippled by the restrictive timetable. Hauliers cannot have lorries and drivers being paid to sit around waiting for ferries, especially when the ferry operates for a short day.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 10:08 pm
    • For DunoonLad
      There are several issues here and they all lead to the same answer.
      In terms of the Gourock-Dunoon route, the endless source of quite pointless – hardly debate, more foot stomping:
      David MacBrayne group reserves were used to buy the two second hand ferries now in service on this route. They were the only two appropriate UK registered boats on the market.
      Using reserves to buy these boats in-house was possible only because the Scottish Government had kept this route out of the single bundle of west coast ferry routes offered for tender in 2006 under EU law.
      The Gourock-Dunoon route was separated because all of the others are accepted by the EU as lifeline services where Gourock Dunoon is not.
      ‘Lifeline service’ status means that both vehicle and passenger charges can be subsidised by government.
      In the case of Gourock-Dunoon, only the carriage of passengers may legally be subsidised.
      The rest of the 26 CalMac routes were offered as a single service contract in 2006, with the ferries required to be leased by the successful bidder from the newly established asset holding company, CMAL.
      At this same stage the Gourock-Dunoon vehicle and passenger route was offered for tender – unsubsidised.
      No potential bidder – including the incumbent and state-owned operator, CalMac – could see this as anything other than a loss maker. There were no bidders.
      It is a moot point as to whether this situation was the result of the government’s gross incompetence or low strategy designed to thwart private sector operator, Western Ferries, known to have its eye on the route.
      Anyway, following the failure of the tender to produce a single bidder, CalMac were asked to continue the service for a further period, using the same elderly boats as before.
      Western Ferries, a persistent critic of the management of the state-owned service on the route, Cowal Ferries Limited, also then a subsidiary of David MacBrayne Limited, held that the Cowal Ferries accounts were managed in order to hide an actual subsidy of the vehicle service by having overall costs – which should have been proportionately allocated between the two services – charged to the subsidisable passenger service.
      Western’s position was that this hidden subsidy of a legally unsubsidisable vehicle service was anti-competitive where there was a private sector vehicle ferry operator on the route – Western Ferries.
      When the route was offered for tender in 2010, with the decision indefensibly delayed until after the Scottish Government election in May 2011, it was as a passenger ferry service.
      Bidders were invited, should they wish, to submit a tender based on the provision of a vehicle and passenger service, on the understanding that only the passenger element could be subsidised.
      The commercial judgement of the market was clear. There were no bids to supply such a service, No one believed it to be commercially viable.
      Argyll Ferries was a corporate vehicle brought into being as a bidder by the efforts of the third member of the David MacBrayne group, David MacBrayne HR (UK) Ltd, a human resource subsidiary.
      As with all companies in the David MacBrayne group, including the parent company, Argyll Ferries is state owned with Scottish Ministers as its only shareholder.
      Supposing David MacBrayne Limited had sufficient reserves, including selling the two boats it bought with government approval for Argyll Ferries – to buy or build two alternative vehicle and passenger ferries and offer those for lease to Argyll Ferries.
      Such a lease would have to be at market value or the competing bidders losing the Gourock-Dunoon contract to Argyll Ferries would have a legitimate complaint about post-facto advantage provided to the winning bidder – a state owned company.
      Moreover, were such leases to be offered to Argyll Ferries at below market value, the Scottish Government would be in trouble on the mantra of today – ‘best value’. David MacBrayne Limited’s reserves are, remember, effectively government reserves since Scottish Ministers are its only shareholder.
      If these hypothetical boats were to be offered to Argyll Ferries for lease at market value, with the negative commercial verdict on the profitability of an unsubsidised vehicle service laid down twice, in 2006 and again in 2011, Argyll Ferries could not afford it.
      If the Scottish Government were to assist Argyll Ferries to run an uneconomic vehicle service, this would be illegal under EU law – and Western Ferries would have them in court under competition law and would win.
      So it is hard to see any way that the scenario you suggest could come about.

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      newsroom August 27, 2012 10:54 pm Reply
      • Newsroom (aka soapbox): The Government could have offered ferries on identical terms to all bidders. The SNP went back on their promise to supply the vessels. That is the root of the problem.

        The contract term is for 6 years. No operator would risk building their own new ferries if they might lose the route in 6 years.

        Transport Scotland gave bidders something like 3 weeks between winning the contract to starting the service. Who can build or even find decent boats in such a short time period. The answer – nobody. Hence the service is operating with the dregs that could be pulled together in 3 weeks. Hardly surprising it is a mess.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 11:08 pm Reply
        • Not true, Northlink produced three boats for a six year contract.

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          Peter Wade August 28, 2012 12:04 am Reply
          • I don’t know the ins and outs of the Northlink contract. Northlink were part of CalMac though and, as far as I am aware, CMAL own all the CalMac vessels apart from, for some strange reason, the bathtubs.

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            ferryman August 28, 2012 9:18 am
          • Ferryman: Peter Wade’s correct, and Northlink was formed as a joint venture between Calmac and a bank (presumably to finance the 3 new vessels)

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            Robert Wakeham August 28, 2012 10:15 am
        • The root of the problem was the broken promise but this was because you can’t build vehicle boats for a passenger only service.

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          Peter Wade August 28, 2012 12:14 am Reply
          • The tender was not for a passenger only service it permitted vehicle carrying.

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            ferryman August 28, 2012 9:19 am
    • Who are the “experts” ? I have said I am not an expert, though I do have long, ongoing experience of using both routes regularly and frequently.

      There are three people who have professional qualifications that entitle them to be called expert in aspects of the problem – they are all pro vehicle ferries. I cannot think of any people entitled to call themselves “expert” who are stating that, in their professional opinion, passenger only ferries are the best solution – are there any?

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      ferryman August 28, 2012 9:29 am Reply
      • Perhaps any “experts” who are in favour of passenger-only boats don’t need to make themselves heard as they have already got them?

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        Jim Williamson August 28, 2012 10:49 am Reply
  • Surely there must be a similar sea crossing in this big world of ours, that has the same type of weather that we get on the River Clyde, and has a passenger vessel running that doesn’t cancel as frequently as ours does? Anyone?

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    DunoonLad August 27, 2012 6:36 pm Reply
    • There are plenty of boats like the Ali Cat and the Flyer sailing all over the world. There are very few using linkspans like the ones that Argyll ferries is having to use. Doesn’t take a genius, or an ‘expert’ to work out where the issues lie.

      Give the boats the right kind of floating pier at the right height and the problem is largely solved.

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      Jim Williamson August 27, 2012 7:07 pm Reply
      • You’re a brave man, Jim – maybe by avoiding the dreaded word ‘pontoon’ you’ll escape attack by the Dunoon dogpack.

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        Robert Wakeham August 27, 2012 7:44 pm Reply
      • Sorry, what problem is solved by pontoons?
        The bathtubs cannot cope with the crossing, pontoons don’t help.

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        ferryman August 27, 2012 8:07 pm Reply
        • Berthing and it’s better for passengers

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          Peter Wade August 27, 2012 8:14 pm Reply
          • In Dunoon they berth more easily at the old pier as they don’t have to cross their own wake, no need for a pontoon. The ferries have been running here for years with no pontoons.

            In what way is a pontoon better for passengers than a linkspan? There is likely to be more erratic motion in a pontoon.

            Anyway the passengers don’t care about pontoons if the ferry cannot run because of the bit in the middle being too rough.

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            ferryman August 27, 2012 8:47 pm
  • Ah Jim, pontoons are the answer!

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    DunoonLad August 27, 2012 7:13 pm Reply
  • Ferryman said “The Ali Cat has a condition that it should only sail in “fine, clear, settled weather”.”

    Yes, it does. If it is sailing on its class 4 certificate.

    But in summer it isn’t sailing in waters where no more than a class 5 certificate is needed. The same waters as Western, the same as the Rothesay boats in summer. Is there a restriction to stop them from sailing in weather like today’s? No, the restriction is a maximum significant wave height. Nothing is mentioned about sailing in clear settles weather.

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    Jim Williamson August 27, 2012 10:49 pm Reply
    • That is a good point. Winter in November to March inclusive. I think the possible prosecution relates to usage in the winter period.

      So can the Ali Cat sail in the summer if the weather is not not “fine, clear and settled”? You are stretching my memory but I don’t thing the condition mentioned dates or waters. So the vessel is sailing under a class IV certificate but that certificate is only valid if the weather is “fine, clear and settled”. To me that means she cannot sail even in the summer except in those conditions. It is a good point though, but one that the MCA really needs to answer.

      From a practical perspective however this is the summer and the bathtubs failed to sail today when it was not particularly rough i.e. these are boats with class IV certificates in category C waters unable to sail when Western Ferries vessels with Class V certificates are sailing to timetable in the same category C waters.

      The bathtubs are just not suitable for the task in hand.

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      ferryman August 27, 2012 11:32 pm Reply
  • The current service has limitations and cannot cope in adverse weather ie the crossing,both terminals are unprotected from East winds and are vulnrable to Easterly fetch and Pontoons will not improve on this only higher tonnage will .In reply to ferryman the restriction on the Alicat at Dunoon pier was 0.6M and this was a berthing restriction not a sailing restriction and this was agreed with Calmac at the time.

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    innes craig August 28, 2012 9:23 am Reply
    • Innes I am happy to stand corrected about the restriction being for berthing. It was imposed by the Council who operate Dunoon pier following a serious incident where people said they were almost killed.

      I agree completely about pontoons not resolving the problem of Easterly winds. In addition the bathtubs also cannot make the crossing in quite moderate Southerly winds as it simply becomes too rough for the general public. Again the solution is larger vessels.

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      ferryman August 28, 2012 9:40 am Reply
      • The passenger services Dunoon already has are, as we have shown, 84% undersubscribed overall and 64% undersubscribed for Argyll Ferries.(http://forargyll.com/2012/08/research-reveals-shock-insights-into-reality-of-dunoon-ferry-service-provision/)
        The notion of larger boats is comic.
        And if you mean heavier boats, that simply makes them more uneconomic.

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        newsroom August 30, 2012 10:03 am Reply
        • You will become a vehicle ferry supporter soon Newsroom (aka soapbox) as it almost sounds as if you are beginning to understand the argument.

          To be reliable you need bigger vessels. They will be uneconomic if the carry only passengers, so they need to carry vehicles as well. That is what the “experts” have been arguing for years.

          Western Ferries ran on Monday when the bathtubs could not sail. Western have larger ferries carrying both vehicles and passengers. In fact they carry about the same number of passengers and have about the same number of crew as the bathtubs but they make a very healthy possibly excessive profit.

          So larger boats carrying vehicles and passengers can obviously pay and provide the required level of reliability.

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          ferryman August 30, 2012 12:25 pm Reply
    • zx135. Yes it is an interesting read. Especially interesting as there is no mention of Class IV vessels.
      It jumps from Class III to Class VI.

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      quasijock August 28, 2012 10:36 am Reply
      • Next time you are on either Western Ferries or Argyll Ferries take a look at the “Passenger Certificate and Domestic Safety Management Certificate”. This is one framed certificate.

        It lists the operating modes for the vessel. For each mode it lists the maximum number of passengers and the minimum number of crew.

        The certificates on the Argyll Ferries vessels state that they are “UK Class IV”. The one on the MV Ali Cat advises that an Exemption Certificate has been issued, this does not seem to be on display.

        I am certain that the certificates on the Western Ferries vessels say “UK Class V”. I don’t see these very often as I tend to stay in my car.

        These certificates are interesting because the vessels of both companies are carrying roughly the same number of passengers and crew yet Western (which carries vehicles) makes a healthy profit.

        So the larger vehicle carrying ferries are reliable and make a profit. On the other hand the passenger only vessels are so small (and hence cheap to operate) that they are unreliable, yet they still run at a loss.

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        ferryman August 28, 2012 11:58 am Reply
        • I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a seriously flawed argument for the carriage of vehicles! If anything, you’ve just made a counter argument to do away with the Argyll service altogether!

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          Jim Williamson August 28, 2012 1:14 pm Reply
          • There is a widely held view that the current passenger service is DESIGNED to fail. It is unreliable, requires a subsidy and, to me, passenger numbers seem to be falling – which is hardly surprising.

            The consequences of failure are grim for Dunoon though. The old service delivered about 0.5M passengers per year into the town centre.

            Nobody is going to move to Dunoon with a view to commuting by ferry/train with an unreliable service that may cease in 5 years.
            Those that do commute are fed up and must be considering their options.

            The contrast between Western Ferries and Argyll Ferries exactly illustrates what vehicle ferry campaigners have been saying all along. You need vehicle ferries for reliability and they can make a profit.

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            ferryman August 28, 2012 1:46 pm
  • Northlink was originally a joint venture between Cal Mac and the Royal Bank of Scotland PLC.

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    Treble T August 28, 2012 12:35 pm Reply
    • So who owns the vessels the Bank?
      Are these vessels now being used by Serco?
      Was there a requirement in the tender that the winner use the vessels?

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      ferryman August 28, 2012 12:46 pm Reply
      • Just did a quick browse. The bank owns the vessels which are being used by the former and current operators.

        So, presumably the Bank invested in vessels because they knew they would recoup the costs plus profit by leasing them to successive operators on the routes.

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        ferryman August 28, 2012 12:54 pm Reply
      • I have done a bit more looking into Northlink and the new Serco service. It gets a subsidy for carrying passengers does it not, even though it carries freight and operates in competition to the unsubsidised Pentland Ferries?

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        ferryman August 29, 2012 10:52 pm Reply
        • It’s not s simple as that, Ferryman, if you’re thinking of a comparison with Gourock – Dunoon. Hardly ‘apples with apples’, and ‘It’ has competition from Pentland Ferries only between Orkney & Caithness. On the Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Lerwick route Northlink also operates two ro-ro freight ships. It certainly gets a subsidy, but then you’ll be aware of just how much the Northern Isles contribute to the wealth of the nation – as does Islay.

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          Robert Wakeham August 29, 2012 11:43 pm Reply
          • There is also another freight operator running a cargo ship between Aberdeen, Orkney and Shetland, who is also in recipt of a subsidy.

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            Jim Williamson August 30, 2012 12:12 am
          • There are strong parallells. I am glad Northlink was brought up.

            So what we have is ferries getting subsidies for carrying passengers whilst carrying vehicles and being in competition with unsubsidised companies also carring vehicles and passengers.

            Gives the lie to the idea that such things are impossible under EU Law doesn’t it!

            Furthermore it sounds like the vessels have been built for the route and are being supplied to who ever operates it. Again perfect for Dunoon.

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            ferryman August 30, 2012 9:08 am
  • Archie Robertson has allegedly left his job at David MacBrayne!

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    DunoonLad August 28, 2012 1:54 pm Reply
    • On Monday at 07:27 AFL started sending messages about delays and cancellations. It was not until Tuesday (today) at 06:17 that the all clear was given, almost 24H of disruption in the summer.

      This occurred just two days after Cowal Games Saturday.
      There are questions about why the Saturn was allowed to rot when her potential relevance to solving problems on the route was know. On top of that there was the inforcement notice served on Argyll ferries by the MCA (a first for CalMac ) and the possibility of a pending prosecution.

      Of course the real villain here is Transport Scotland who wrote the contract. The CEO was just silly enough to go along with the scheme even though he must have/should have known the bathtubs would not be up to the job.

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      ferryman August 28, 2012 2:36 pm Reply
      • Did you not get the message sent out at 17:09 yesterday that stated that normal service was resuming?

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        Jim Williamson August 28, 2012 2:39 pm Reply
        • That message said the service was still on alert.
          The message this morning stated “Normal service has resumed”.

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          ferryman August 28, 2012 3:31 pm Reply
  • Thanks Newsroom for posting such a detailed response.

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    DunoonLad August 28, 2012 6:28 pm Reply
  • Just seem to be going round in circles here! When is the Government report due to be published, and more importantly, what new information (if any) will it produce?

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    DunoonLad August 28, 2012 6:31 pm Reply
  • For ferryman. In your comment above, the sixth in the chain following Comment 10 (beginning ‘There are strong parallels…’ which in fact there are not), you are conveniently forgetting the key issue of ‘lifeline’ services.
    This is a status recognised by the EU and governing the subsidies it permits and those it does not.
    Competition law is a separate issue altogether and is germane where a route is not recognised as a lifeline service.
    The west and north coast ferry services are recognised as lifeline services and may be subsidised where a government appoints a supplier as a lifeline service provider.
    The Gourock-Dunoon service is not a lifeline service although the EU permits the passenger service to be subsidised.
    Being a lifeline service means that the service must oeprate, re3gardeless of whether there are private sector operations on the route.
    The sense of this is seen in the case of Pentlnad Ferries – which you cite. This is a small private business and when a boat goes put of service with an unexpected problem, the service is simply affected until the boat is repaired. This does not leave the Orkney Isles in a pickle because the NorthLink lifeline service operates anyway – and, as with CalMac on the west coast, it will bring a temporary replacement boat onstream to cover the service if a boat is in for service, refit or suffers a technical problem.
    Competition law has no purchase in the case of a lifeline service.
    It does come into play on a route like Gourock-Dunoon which is not a lifeline service. In this case, a state subsidised vehicle and ferry service, using public money to undercut a private sector vehicle ferry operation, would lose a case in competition law.
    The NorthLink boats were indeed built for that route.
    The tender for the Gourock-Dunoon route – issued by the Scottish Government – was not scored to allow for the costs of newbuild to be incurred. It was predicated on the use of existing boats. For political reasons, the award of the contract for the passenger service was also not made before the May 2011 elections, leaving little time before the start of the new service contract at the end of June.

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    newsroom August 30, 2012 9:55 am Reply
    • Newsroom said: “For political reasons, the award of the contract for the passenger service was also not made before the May 2011 elections, leaving little time before the start of the new service contract at the end of June.”

      The Macbrayne Group, and no doubt the other bidders, had arrangements in place to purchase their boats in March 2011, two whole months before the election. The actual purchase was conditional upon them winning the contract, which they did.

      So the whole “we only had four weeks” argument falls apart really.

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      Jim Williamson August 30, 2012 10:53 am Reply
    • The EU permitted the Dunoon route to carry both vehicles and subsidised passengers, that is what matters, that is the parallel. That is what was in the tender but a lack of ships meant the result had to be passenger only. The two vehicle ferries that were available were elimintated by deliberately exluding the historic pier.

      You cannot build a ship 2-3months. You cannot even buy a car in 2-3 months unless you take whatever the showroom has. Which is exactly why we ended up with the bathtubs.

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      ferryman August 30, 2012 12:17 pm Reply
      • The two vehicle carrying boats – if you mean the Jupiter and the Saturn – needed a subsidy of twice that which was made available for the new contract. Would you have doubled the fares to make ends meet?

        Thought not.

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        Jim Williamson August 30, 2012 2:04 pm Reply
        • The streakers were old, inefficient and carried large crews. They were however reliable and they were the only possible vehicle ferries available in the timescales.

          My point is that that were excluded, why?
          You say they could not possibly have won the tender, so why did somebody go to the bother of excluding them?

          Everything possible seems to have been done to ensure that there was no vehicle service on the route.

          Why were the sailing restrictions not removed on the former streaker service?

          The answer is simple with no restrictions it would have become crystal clear that town centre route would be popular with vehicles and give Western a run for its money.

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          ferryman August 30, 2012 2:41 pm Reply

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