Arran Ferry Service In Chaos



CalMac ferry breakdowns are now causing real harm, with precious island jobs being lost.

If you are an Arran islander, or visitor, even just someone who would like to help, please consider EMAILING the Arran MSP, Kenneth Gibson (email address here), or write by old fashioned post, to seek a solution from the Transport Minister via:

Mr Kenneth Gibson MSP., 15 Main Street, Dalry, KA24 5DL.


Here are some disturbing numbers. Each cancelled sailing affects hundreds of people.

Source: CalMac Official Route Performance Table

Of the 557 cancelled ferry sailings that should have gone to/from Arran so far this year, 335 CalMac failures were on the main Ardrossan-Brodick lifeline ferry service and 222 cancelled ferry journeys on the Lochranza-Claonaig route to Arran. (1/1/2018 to 31/10/2018 Source: here).

Arran Island Businesses Are Now At Real Risk of Closure.

Source: CalMac Official Route Performance Table

This is NOT a criticism of CalMac crew/staff. They do their very best in worsening company conditions.

This IS an alarm at the seeming inability of senior management at CalMac to learn lessons of the past; of wasted resources on leasing overly large ships. An apparent malaise at the state owned ferry operator’s management team. CalMac and the lifeline ferry subsidy is now £209,680,000 each year. At this rate, the 6 year contract period means a staggering…

£1,258,080,000 Ferry Subsidy

That is an eye watering 1,258 million pounds!

Yet, Western Ferries have run for decades at ZERO cost to the taxpayer, and Pentland Ferries serve Orkney at ZERO cost to the taxpayer.

CalMac Ferries receive a remarkable subsidy of £4,032,307 per week (plus fares and other income). If the government grant Scotslion Ferries Ltd., one week of that subsidy, we will run the Arran ferry at £1 per passenger and £5 per car. We will also charge the Scottish Government ZERO for the newbuild ships.

That would save the taxpayer several million pounds of the current CalMac capital asset subsidy that Holyrood could then spend on the NHS, schools, fire service, police service. Even fill in some of the potholes on Arran. However…

The subscribers of this website do NOT want to start a new ferry service.

We want CalMac to get a grip and run a safe, reliable and decent service. Please.

We are begging the CalMac senior management to STOP building over-sized ships and  instead start constructing a new class of medium sized ferries such as a modern version of the MV Hebridean Isles / MV Isle of Arran – up to a 2019/2020 specification. Three of these for Arran would mean:

= A longer ferry day. First sailing 5am. Last sailing 10pm.

= Plug in an extra ferry when demand increases.

= Adequate coverage when an older ferry breaks down.

= Ability to cope with Road Equivalent Tariff increased demands.

= A ship size that fits into Ardossan Harbour on windy days.

Instead of CalMac/CMAL management getting this right, we have the horrendous £30,000,000 cost of Brodick Pier and £97,000,000 to buy two overly large mega-ferries. Why?

The current MD at CalMac is Robbie Drummond. He has an excellent CV and looks to be one of the best managing directors at the state owned ferry company in a generation. For sure, Mr Drummond identified the aging fleet problem very early on in his tenure at the top job…

Press and Journal: Source: Here – Also BBC Reporting: Here

Yet for some reason lost on us, nobody at the senior level in CalMac (nor CMAL) seems to be listening or learning. Especially from other organisations who have a skillset worth sharing for the common good. Pentland Ferries built the MV Pentalina for £7,856,939. Yet CalMac and CMAL spend £47,000,000 on a vessel that should cost no more than £15,000,000 for the Ardrossan-Brodick route.

Orkney Island’s Non-Subsidised MV Pentalina. Cost Andrew Banks £7,856,939.

Why on earth are CalMac and CMAL spending an excessive £47,000,000 of taxpayer money on a ferry that is far too big to fit into Ardrossan in many sea conditions when Arran could secure THREE medium sized ships for the same price?

Our suggested three ferry option for Arran would employ more seafarers/shoreside staff AND provide a safe, modern and reliable service to islanders and visitors?

In the next 12 months, Pentland Ferries will be taking delivery of their newbuild £14,000,000 car ferry… 

Orkney Island’s New Ferry. Cost To The Taxpayer: ZERO Pounds.

Private Funding: £14,000,000.

Meanwhile, the new £47,000,000 CalMac/CMAL ferry MV Glen Sannox is moribund and rusting away. That ship is currently looking in a bad condition as it sits idle at the shipbuilders. Launched just over one year ago (21st November 2017) the shipbuilders and owners/charterers and embroiled in an unedifying contractual dispute.

Worryingly, Arran islanders – in fact many islanders with a CalMac ferry – are becoming more anxious by the day at whether their businesses and jobs are safe with over 500 cancelled sailings at just one of the many islands CalMac are paid £1,258,080,000 to service.

Since launching this website we have numerous texts, emails and telephone calls with ever increasing concern at the CalMac ferry cancellation chaos.

Whilst the majority of communications are positive and constructive, recent coverage in a ferry enthusiast magazine has left us saddened by online abuse. We are big enough and ugly enough to fend off brickbats if the five social media authors could reason and understand facts + logic. But a minority at CalMac’s ferry fan club think this is funny or something trivial. Most ferry-fans are decent folk who take brilliant photographs of CalMac ferries. A good bunch of well mannered enthusiasts. Recently the ferry-spotters have had a few of their number let themselves down. We can assure the abusive members these matters are not trivial to many Arran islanders, their friends and visitors.

“Cold Kale” is one of the more pithy social media comments by a “ferry enthusiast”. Well, the last “cold kale” cost from our previous dispute with CalMac, 14 years ago resulted in a £15,366,769 bill to the Scottish Government transport minister. Back in 2004, we had pleaded with CalMac not to go that way. But stubborn senior management from a previous era at CalMac refused to listen to our efforts at a resolution. CalMac also ignored numerous Arran islanders. The result? This horrendous repeat expense to the taxpayer...

CalMac Intransigence In 2004 Ended Up With £15,366,769 Recurrent Costs (Here)

So next time some keyboard warrior on CalMac social fan-site thinks this is a trivial issue, just consider what £15,366,769 every 8 years would pay for if it were put towards the NHS or fire services? That equates to a wasted £36,939 each and every week.

Cold kale? Aye right.

As of 22nd November 2018, we now know for sure that the CalMac breakdowns and ferry failures are costing real jobs on Arran.

We suspect other islands with lifeline ferry services have a similar situation.

So CalMac senior management, PLEASE can you STOP building these vastly oversized and ridiculously expensive big ships?

In response to the cold kale brigade. We are not “Anti-CalMac”. Like many islanders, we are “Angry-With-CalMac”. Were we “Anti-CalMac” our officers would have pressed the case against CalMac that we won at the EU. It was within the gamut of options available in 2005 to seek further action against CalMac immediately after the substantive EU Transport Commissioner decision went in our favour. Rather than cause gratuitous damage to CalMac, our point had been well made and we let matters rest back then.

Here at Scotslion Ltd., we still hope that senior management at CalMac will listen to islanders and get a grip of the deteriorating services they are paid £1,258,080,000 to provide.

Are you angry with CalMac? Have you experienced any disruptions that have caused significant problems to you and your family or business?

Please let us know…



CalMac Enigma?

We were asked why this new website was called: CalMac Enigma?

The reason is because several of our subscribers grew up on the islands that CalMac serve. Each individual from here had a huge well of goodwill towards CalMac. Especially after we bought the MV Lochmor from the iconic ferry company.

MV Lochmor. A Class IIa Former CalMac Bought By Our Group.

Renamed “MV Lochawe as CalMac conditions of sale retained the old name.

Photo Attribution: Argyll Group plc

The MV Lochmor was bought to warm up the Campbeltown-Ballycastle route. This was a stop-gap ferry purchase until CalMac responded to our request to buy the MV Pioneer for the Argyll-Antrim service from our group company.

MV Pioneer. CalMac Failure Led to The Removal of All Ferries & Piers To CMAL

Photo Attribution: Mr Iain Murray

Unfortunately, our offer to buy MV Pioneer for the Campbeltown-Ballycastle route was handled by the former CalMac management in such a questionable manner that the resultant fallout escalated to a major dispute that eventually caused the removal of CalMac’s ships and piers (placed into the ownership of CMAL Ltd). Furthermore, a £15,366,769 cost every 6 to 8 years now accrues for each tender round.

Our affection towards CalMac was turned into despair that such a beloved company could be managed in such a questionable manner. Now, over a decade later, many islanders left stranded away from home or work are having their own good-will towards CalMac severely strained as island jobs are on now the line.

The previous management at CalMac made some serious errors of judgement. We are literally begging current CalMac MD Robbie Drummond not to repeat those mistakes? Robbie, please get a grip. The Arran lifeline ferry service is genuinely in chaos.

The enigmatic irony is that by refusing/failing to learn from the past – and pick up some helpful pointers from other shippingy companies such as Western Ferries and Pentland Ferries – CalMac will be the author of it’s own extinction.

We do NOT want to put a new ferry service onto the Ardrossan-Brodick route. But neither can we stand idly by and watch jobs be put in harm’s way on the island of Arran. 

Recent forecasts are terrible…

CalMac Breakdowns in 2018 Are Proving Disastrous. Source: Here

So, in the event that CalMac’s current senior management fail to improve the dreadful and chronic series of disruptions that have epitomised the 2018 Arran ferry service, we are having to consider this…

Arran Banner Coverage Cares About The Ferry Services

Postscript to Arran Banner article: Scotslion Ferries Ltd., have decided the MV Saturn is not a suitable vessel at this stage in that ship’s life-cycle. Scotslion are now looking at alternate options. More news here in due course.


Please Consider Writing To The Arran MSP

Contrary to popular belief, writing  to a politician can actually get things working again. We know as a letter to another MSP (along with a petition: click here) plus a great deal of help from a LOT of people is why you see the “Campbeltown & Kintyre” ferry sign on your way to Arran’s Ardrossan Ferry Terminal…

A Letter To An MSP Helped Campbeltown & Kintyre: Above Is The Proof

That previous aim was to help restore the Campbeltown ferry service. A lot of effort secured a structurally important service to Argyll from Ardrossan which helps the economy on the fragile Kintyre peninsula.

This new endeavour to help remedy the Arran ferry chaos is likely to gain traction and nudge CalMac into saving itself from extinction if enough folk let the owner of CalMac know he needs to get a grip. The Scottish Government transport minister is that person. He holds 100% of the shares of CalMac. He holds that ownership in trust for the taxpayer.

We believe if a sufficient volume of Arran folk and friends write to Kenneth Gibson MSP and ask him to press the Scottish Government Transport Minister to listen to the islanders – that three medium class ferries can be built to replace the current £47,000,000 MV Glen Sannox between Ardrossan and Brodick, we can see an end to the current ferry chaos (MV Glen Sannox can be deployed elsewhere in the network such as the Minch where her size is more suitable).

Each and every one of the 557 CalMac ferry cancellations has affected hundreds of  Arran islanders and visitors. Every person has a story to tell of upset and distress. Every passenger is an advert of why Arran is possibly NOT the best destination to go visit. Is this really what Arran folk want?

Please consider helping by writing to the Arran MSP…

To: Mr Kenneth Gibson MSP., 15 Main Street, Dalry, KA24 5DL.

Dear Mr Gibson,

Arran Ferry Chaos – As My MSP, Please Can You Help?

Please can you ask the Transport Minister what he will do to remedy the Arran ferry chaos? So far this year, 557 ferry sailings have been cancelled.

I would like an answer as to what is being done to resolve this problem?

Whilst responding, please can the Transport Minister advise if he will ask Audit Scotland to study whether 3 medium sized newbuild ferries for CalMac, such as modern versions of the MV Hebridean Isles at £15,000,000 each would be a better solution than one £47,000,000 mega-ferry that is too big to sail into Ardrossan Harbour when the wind is in the wrong direction?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,



The above suggested letter can be copied and sent via email through Kenny Gibson’s constituency contact address: Click Here.


Please Note: This is a new website under construction and will, by it’s very nature, take several weeks to fine-tune. please check back regularly. Thanks.

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