Yesterday, 9th September, the Scottish Government made two formal moves in respect of the provision of the Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services.
They issued a Prior Information Notice [here] of what is to be a two year tendering process to start on 3rd November 2014.
This gives no indication of the nature of the contract or contracts to be offered and this will not be known until six weeks after the independence referendum on 18th September 2014.
The Prior Information Notice came on the same day as Jamie McGrigor MSP received a response from Transport Minister, Keith Brown, to his question on the Scottish Government”s specific plans for opening pre-tendering access to ferry service contracts to local authorities and local ferry action groups involved.
The response was that the Scottish Government plans to offer across the routes the same access to pre-tendering discussions with potential operators as the Infrastructure Secretary has committed to offering in respect of any developments in the non-lifeline service between Gourock and Dunoon on the Clyde.
This access is to be decided by Scottish Ministers on a case by case basis, with ferry action groups on the routes for Islay, the Small Isles and Lochboisdale among those very keen to be involved.
Given that the Gourock-Dunoon route already has a successful private sector ferry operator offering vehicle and passenger services on a route that is not a lifeline service, it is difficult to see what reason Scottish Ministers might have to deny this specific pre-tendering access to any other local ferry action group where lifeline services are concerned.
The future for such tenders is now looking much more democratic and the Scottish Government is to be congratulated for the clarity of its intention that this is to be the case.
The Scottish Government also issued yesterday what is in effect a public information notice of the fact that they have awarded a three year extension of contract to CalMac for the delivery of the Clyde and Hebridean Services. It had been announced a year ago that this was to be done, so yesterdays notice [here] confirms that this has now been done.
The contract value is £285 million and the Scottish Government’s account of the need for it is:
‘Prior publication of a contract notice in the OJEU was not required as the contract is for services listed in Annex II B of Directive 2004/18/EC. However Scottish Ministers remain committed to ensuring that Scotland’s subsidised ferry service contracts are awarded following fair, open and transparent procurement competitions.
‘Awarding a 3-year contract extension to CalMac Ferries Ltd from 2013 to 2016 will allow Scottish Ministers to ensure that, starting in 2014, a robust and thorough procurement exercise is conducted for the next contract that will enable the delivery of enhanced ferry services across the Clyde and Hebrides (CHFS) routes.
‘The Scottish Government’s comprehensive review of ferry services concluded with the publication of the final Ferries Plan on 19 December 2012. Scottish Ministers wish to build the recommendations of the Ferries Plan into the next tender exercise. It is clear that a tender exercise for CHFS will take around 2 years to complete. This includes 6 months to allow the operator to fully mobilise their service under the new contractual regime.
‘If Scottish Ministers had sought to tender the CHFS services for the period from 2013-2016 the nature and complexity of these services would have meant there was no realistic prospect of completing the tender exercise in the time available.
‘In addition, there were doubts around the likely response from ferry operators to a tender for a 3-year contract. If there was a tender for a contract for just 3 years duration, there would likely be a very mixed reaction from the market with indications being that there would be little competition.
‘The 2013-2016 extension of the contract with CalMac Ferries will therefore allow the next contract to fully incorporate the outcome of the final Ferries Plan which was published on 19 December 2012. The final Ferries Plan – the Scottish Government’s vision for ferry services – provides a blueprint for ferry services right across Scotland over the next decade with the new Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract at its heart.’