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CalMac has confirmed changes to capacities on its ferries following the First Minister’s announcement that Scotland was moving beyond Level zero.
The First Minister confirmed that official physical distancing guidelines will be lifted on Monday August 9. This means that the number of passengers that can be carried on board ferries will return to normal levels. Ferries have been operating at around 30 per cent of normal capacity.
While this will improve capacity for foot passengers, vehicle ticket availability is likely to remain limited on some services, as capacity on car decks is already being reached during periods of high demand.
Passengers are being advised to plan ahead as much as they can as their preferred choice of sailing may not always be available.
There will also be changes to the exemption that has been in place during Covid that allowed passengers to remain in their vehicles on certain sailings. Due to Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) rules, passengers and freight drivers will no longer be permitted to stay with their vehicle on enclosed vehicle decks of RO-RO vessels.
Passengers travelling from Wemyss Bay-Rothesay, Berneray-Leverburgh, and Oban-Craignure (MV Coruisk) sailings will therefore no longer be able to stay in their vehicles during the crossing and must exit their vehicles.
Reservations for additional capacity available from Wednesday August 4. Telephone reservations will open at 8am. Timetables will remain as published.
To reduce the risk of new Covid-19 strains spreading, some mitigations will remain in place. Face coverings will continue to be mandatory inside ferries and ports unless exempt, and increased vessel turnaround times will continue to allow for enhanced cleaning. Perspex screens will be retained in ports and on vessels for the protection of staff and passengers.
CalMac operations director Robert Morrison said: ‘It is good news that we are finally able to open up our ferries to their full capacities following the relaxation of Covid regulations.
‘I know this has been a source of great frustration for local communities, businesses and travellers during an extremely busy summer period. With many people focussing on holidaying at home and a period of sustained good weather, it has placed extra pressure on the system.
‘It is vital to note, however, that we still recommend booking ahead as many of the car deck spaces are already reaching capacity. The majority of the capacity being freed up is for passenger space on deck.
‘We are really looking forward to welcoming more passengers on board.’