Overview

Transport Scotland is responsible for several different ferry services. This page looks at the subsidised routes and the contractors undertaking them.

Gourock - Dunoon

Both sides of Cowal Peninsula are linked by a subsidised ferry that travels between Dunoon town centre and Gourock town centre. It is operated by Argyll Ferries Ltd (AFL) on behalf of Scottish Ministers. AFL were awarded a six-year contract in June 2011 to operate this service. This contract has been extended by 9 months.

Steering group

The Steering Group was starting by Alex Neil MSP and helps to keep the service accountable to Scottish Ministers. It is currently chaired by Derek Mackay, Minister for Transport and Islands.

Minutes of meetings

Discussion papers

Feasibility study

MVA Consultancy and The Maritime Group carried out a feasibility study of a future passenger and vehicle service with the vehicle service portion being non-subsidised. Their report Gourock-Dunoon Ferry Service: Feasibility Study has been published.

A number of Technical Notes informed the final report and have also been published. These technical notes were work-in-progress and presented initial analysis which was subsequently revised in the light of new information and comments received.

Following the completion of the Feasibility Study, the Scottish Government completed a market engagement exercise with potential operators. This will inform our future policy and procurement options and you can read the Market Engagement for the Gourock Dunoon Ferry Service report. Our aim is to provide long-term solutions for improving travel between the two towns.

The consensus is that for route reliability to improve, the service needs more suitable vessels. It is likely that new, purpose-built tonnage will be required.

A paper considering the options open to the Scottish Ministers under the relevant EU legislation and guidelines Gourock-Dunoon Ferry Service – Vessel Procurement has been published.

Following a competitive tendering process, on 7 June 2011 AFL was awarded a six-year contract to operate this ferry service. This contract has been extended by 9 months.

The contract runs from June 2011 until March 2018.

View the contract, minute of extension and variations.

The procurement for the next contract, post 2018, has been paused to allow adequate time for the policy review to be carried out.

Freedom of Information requests

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for advice received from David MacBrayne Ltd on the use of the MV Coruisk on the Gourock-Dunoon route, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding RET fares, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding the MVA study, the concept of a “defensible subsidy” and the position of the European Commission, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding Harbour dues at Gourock and Dunoon, the following response has been made available.

MV Coruisk

On 19 September 2013 the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, announced in Parliament that the MV Coruisk would be made available over the 2013/14 winter as an additional passenger only vessel on the Gourock-Dunoon town centre route.

Reports on the deployment of the Coruisk have now been published.

Freedom of Information requests

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for advice received from David MacBrayne Ltd on the use of the MV Coruisk on the Gourock-Dunoon route, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding RET fares, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding the MVA study, the concept of a “defensible subsidy” and the position of the European Commission, the following response has been made available.

In response to a Freedom of Information request asking for information regarding Harbour dues at Gourock and Dunoon, the following response has been made available.

Clyde and Hebrides

CalMac Ferries Ltd provide the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services under tendered contract with Scottish Ministers. You can read about the plan for the future of these services in the Scottish Ferries Plan 2013-2022.

The contract for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services runs from 2016 until 2024:

CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, which is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers.

Contracts and evaluations

On 17 February 2015, the Contract Notice was submitted to the Official Journal of the European Union, signalling the Scottish Government’s intention to take forward a competition that will see a contract awarded at the end of May 2016 for the provision of the services from October 2016.

The service is regularly evaluated. Read the results of those evaluations below:

Northern Isles

The services to the Orkney and Shetland Islands supported by the Scottish Government are Serco NorthLink Ferries and Shetland Line 1984 Limited. They are provided under tendered contracts with Scottish Ministers.

Northern Isles ferry services contract

  • Operator: Serco NorthLink Ferries
  • Contract: 6 years (July 2012 to April 2018)
  • Areas served: Ferry services between (a) Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick and (b) Scrabster and Stromness.

For more information visit the Northlink Ferries website

Route map for Northern Isles

The current contract between the Scottish Ministers and Serco NorthLink Ferries to operate ferry services to and from the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish mainland is due to terminate in April 2018.

A public consultation on options for future Northern Isles ferry services was conducted from 11 June to 30 September 2010.

The relevant consultation documents are available for information only below.

Northern Isles Ferry Service

Invitation to Submit a Final Tender – Instructions to participants 13 February 2012

MV Hamnavoe

A copy of the report into the breakdown of the MV Hamnavoe in April 2013.

Northern Isles freight contract

Operator: Shetland Line 1984 Limited, part of the Streamline Shipping Group

Contract length: 6 years (May 2008 to May 2014). View the contract

Areas served: Freight shipping service between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick

For more information visit the Streamline Shipping Group Ltd website

Non-Subsidised Ferry Services

The following links provide information about major ferry services which are not funded by the Scottish Government:

There are also a number of privately owned operators who provide local ferry services throughout the Highlands and Islands.

Ferries Unit engagement

Ferries provide a vital lifeline to our valued island and rural mainland residents and help to support thriving business and employment opportunities on the islands. The lifeline services on the Clyde and Hebrides network, the Northern Isles network and the Gourock –Dunoon service are provided under public service contracts.

Transport Scotland’s Ferry Unit is responsible for overarching ferries policy, the procurement of the public services contracts, contract management of these contracts and policy on future vessel and infrastructure investment. The public service contracts specify the routes and timetables which the operator is required to provide, as well as the fares which apply.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is public body wholly owned by Scottish Ministers. It owns the ferries, ports and harbours and infrastructure necessary for vital ferry services serving the West coast of Scotland and the Clyde Estuary. It procures and owns the vessels, which are funded by the Scottish Government and owns and maintains 22 harbours. It leases the vessels to the ferry operator for use under the public service contracts – this is mostly, but not wholly, under the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract. The operators of the Public Service contracts – CalMac Ferries Ltd, Serco Northlink Ferries and Argyll Ferries Ltd - deliver the ferry services to the islands. They are responsible for local consultation on various matters, such as timetables, with local communities, reporting back to Transport Scotland.

Consequently Transport Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, are actively engaged in a number of groupings with a range of key stakeholders to ensure that these ferry services are managed and developed in a way that is consistent with those aims.

In carrying out its various functions, Transport Scotland engages formally with different groups. A listing of these groups and their membership is set out below. This list is not exhaustive and Transport Scotland engage with many other groups on an ad hoc basis.

Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services

Name Frequency Membership Purpose of Group
Ardrossan - Brodick Taskforce Variable Transport Scotland
North Ayrshire Council
CalMac
CMAL
Clydeport
Local stakeholders
To ensure improvement of the operational effectiveness of the Ardrossan facility in supporting the lifeline ferry services and the new vessel on the Arran route
Argyll Ferry Infrastructure Group Monthly Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
CalMac Ferries Ltd
CMAL

To ensure that vessels and infrastructure are suitable and sustainable.

To take forward specific projects, starting with those for Islay and Mull.

To share information and co-ordinate communications with communities and other stakeholders.

CHFS Procurement Reference Panel Final meeting held on 24 February 2017 Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
North Ayrshire Council
HiTRANS
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
Local stakeholders
To discuss the CHFS procurement process/invite view on approach used in ITT.
Expert Ferry Group 3 times per year Transport Scotland
CalMac
CMAL
HiTRANS
ZetTRANS
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
UK Chamber of Shipping
Independent ferry experts
Academic experts
Commercial ferry operator
To provide Scottish Ministers with considered advice about key ferries related issues in Scotland.

To provide advice on strategic issues highlighted by local Ferry Users Groups or Committees.

To provide advice to Scottish Ministers on the requirement for wider consultation and on the progress made to implement the Ferries Plan proposals.
Ferry User Groups Six Monthly Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
North Ayrshire Council
Orkney Islands Council
Shetland Islands Council
HiTRANS
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
ZetTRANS
Inverclyde Council
CalMac
CMAL
Local stakeholders and elected officials
To provide a forum for engagement on strategic issues facing the CHFS network.
Freight Fares Review Working Group Variable Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
North Ayrshire Council
Orkney Islands Council
Shetland Islands Council
HiTRANS
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
ZetTRANS
Highlands & Islands Enterprise
Freight Transport Association
Road Haulage Association
To oversee the strategic direction of the Freight Fares Review.
Gourock - Dunoon Ferry Service Steering Group Not yet established - on hold following announcement of Policy Review Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
Inverclyde Council
Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group
To discuss the GDFS procurement process/invite view on approach used in ITT.
Iona Harbours Working Group Last two meetings November 2016 / January 2017 - next meeting April / May 2017 date to be confirmed Transport Scotland
Argyll & Bute Council
CalMac Ferries Ltd
CMAL
Sound of Iona Harbours Committee
South West Mull and Iona Development
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
To undertake a new feasibility study to identify medium / long term options for Iona / Fionnphort Overnight berth.
The Islands Transport Forum Twice a year (By Invite only)
Transport Scotland
Government Officials
Improving collaboration between Transport Scotland, RTPs and islands councils and ensuring clarity with regard to roles;
Establishing a process that fully accounts for island-specific view;
Ensuring efficient and effective lines of communication between all key stakeholders to facilitate improved consultation and engagement.
Mallaig - Armadale Working Group Variable Transport Scotland
CalMac Ferries Ltd
CMAL
Mallaig Harbour Authority
The Highland Council
Sleat Transport Forum
Road to the Isles Marketing Group
Sabhal Mor Ostaig
To develop options and proposals for the medium and long-term provision of appropriate vessel and shoreside infrastructure on the Mallaig to Armadale route to accommodate forecast growth and provide operational resilience.
Outer Hebrides Ferry Services To be determined Transport Scotland
CalMac Ferries Ltd
CMAL
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
Argyll & Bute Council
HiTRANS
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Stornoway Port Authority
Ullapool Harbour Authority
Mallaig Harbour Authority
To develop options for the long-term provision of ferry services to, from and within the Outer Hebrides
Ullapool - Stornoway Ferry Service Taskforce and Stakeholder Group Met monthly Jan - June 2015 Transport Scotland
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
CalMac
CMAL
Ullapool Harbour Trust
Stornoway Port Authority
Outer Hebrides Tourism
Local stakeholders and hauliers
The role of the Taskforce was to identify issues and review progress of the whole project including:

The completion of works at Stornoway and Ullapool.

The entry into service of the £42m MV Loch Seaforth.

Arrangements for diversionary services during the scheduled Ullapool linkspan replacement works.

Communication and engagement.

Realisation of the benefits of the significant investment undertaken in tonnage and infrastructure.

Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan (Network Strategy) monthly tripartite meetings with CalMac and CMAL Transport Scotland
CalMac
CMAL
Argyll & Bute Council
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Highland Council
North Ayrshire Council
HiTRANS
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
To develop a programme of vessel replacements, deployments and disposals in support of: the delivery of the Ferries Plan, the on going renewal of the fleet and responding to forecast demand across the network in an objective and transparent way.

Northern Isles Ferry Services

Name Frequency Membership Purpose of Group
Northern Isles Consultative Forum Variable Transport Scotland
Orkney Islands Council
Shetland Islands Council
HiTRANS
ZetTRANS
Local harbour authorities
Local commercial ferry operators
VisitScotland
Outward facing forum on external Northern Isles ferry services. Key consultative group for Scottish Government in testing proposals for future changes to existing services. Supports the Scottish Government in assessing communities’ needs taking into account all current ferry service provision as well as on-going financial constraints.
Northern Isles Ferry Services 2018 Working Group - Appraisal Variable Transport Scotland
Orkney Islands Council
Shetland Islands Council
HiTRANS
ZetTRANS
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
To oversee a study to inform the specification for the next Northern Isles Ferry Services contract.
Orkney & Shetland Internal Transport Studies Variable Transport Scotland
Orkney Islands Council
Shetland Islands Council
HiTRANS
ZetTRANS
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
To oversee work to inform future decisions on funding and responsibility for internal ferry services following Ministerial commitment to fair funding in the Empowering Scotland's Islands Communities prospectus.