Letters to the editor – 9.9.21

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Mull ferry

CalMac’s claim twin-hull vessels are on principle ‘unsuitable for their type of services’ was dented after the successful introduction of the medium-speed catamaran Pentalina on the Pentland Firth crossing.

Recently, when Pentalina was being considered for badly-needed relief service, the charter fell through, seemingly because RMT did not approve of it. Now an available vessel from the same builders has also been turned down and one wonders if possible rejection by RMT lies behind the decision, because the reasons given are not very convincing.

The claim that ‘dozens of elements’ had been identified on the Phillipines vessel which did not comply with UK regulations made no mention of which were serious structural issues as opposed to minor ones. Given that the ship has been described as similar to the Pentalina and the Alfred, which do have UK certification, and were reputedly built for Australian service before Covid cancelled the contract, I hold a degree of scepticism about the alleged difficulties of compliance.

The demands on the providers – that the ship be modified before any hand-over – is also unusual. I have worked on several ships purchased from abroad and in all cases any modifications were carried out after purchase and when the vessel arrived in the UK.

And being a lot cheaper to operate – much lower fuel costs and no live-onboard crewing provision – it might also have demonstrated that CMAL’s own designs are not always as optimal as they claim to be. So yes … it has been declared ‘unsuitable’, but that’s on their own terms, and others such as the action groups and their well-qualified technical advisors – who are no longer the kind of individual complainant who can be easily dismissed – may neither agree nor fade conveniently away.

As for looking after taxpayers’ money, the Mull action group’s record on that stands for itself. They could have obtained half a dozen Alfreds – built new to UK standards – for the money already spent on the Arran-bound ferries 801/802 with yet no completion in sight. And that’s not counting the expensive terminal alterations which will be needed if and when these ferries are completed.

The recent announcement of a replacement for Finlaggan – presumably along the lines of their usual designs – may keep Islay from joining Mull and Arran in rebellion for the time being, but then unless CMAL, CalMac and co have upped their game it might be another Glen Sannox which they definitely would not survive.

Arthur Blue, Ardrishaig.

Recent disruptions with Islay ferry service

Recent disruptions with our ferry service from Islay to the mainland have once again shown us just how much we depend on a fit-for-purpose service with reliable, newer vessels in operation.

Unfortunately this is currently not the case as our ferry fleet has been underfunded for many years, if not decades, as a result of decisions made by urban-centric central government.

Our front line CalMac ferry crews and port staff are hardworking and are an asset to our island and mainland communities, however, they can only work with the tools they have at hand.

The 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles is one of the oldest in the state-owned fleet and while it was no doubt good in its day, that day has long since passed.

Problems with our Islay ferry service have also been exacerbated with the continued poaching of one of our ferries in summer for other areas CalMac operate in. On numerous occasions in the past, distillers on Islay said they were facing major problems in transporting whisky to the mainland because of a capacity crisis on the ferry links.

This simply cannot be allowed to continue. The feeling amongst many of my constituents is that we on Islay, Jura and Colonsay always end up getting a raw deal.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Islay.

Protecting our MPAs

Greenpeace  – thank God somebody cares – has highlighted commercial fishing in protected sea areas (MPAs).

This needs to stop as resources need to be conserved and managed sustainably. Species depletion and loss must be reversed and the seabed needs to remain protected from bottom trawling which, among other harms, releases carbon to the atmosphere.

We are getting to a tipping point of no return on climate and environmental issues and any malpractice has to be identified and addressed immediately.

All associated commercial industries should be levied and the tax put towards a government department for future-proofing, sustainability and resilience. All enterprises exploiting natural resources should licensed and granted under strict conditions on sustainable practices, with severe ‘on the spot’ penalties for breaches.

The time has come to act and when this occurs it is the little people who eventually, out of self preservation, stand up.

Please use the platforms we have – including The Oban Times – to let everyone know we are facing a planetary emergency.

Graeme Guy, Dingwall.