Ninety-seven per cent of Caledonian MacBrayne’s scheduled ferry sailings to and from Bute operated as normal last winter - despite some of the worst weather seen in the west of Scotland for many years.
Simon Richmond, the company’s area operations manager for the Clyde and Islay, reported the statistic at a meeting on the island this week - and said the firm felt its performance had been “pretty good” during a spell which was “widely recognised as the worst winter for decades”.
In a presentation to Bute Community Council on Wednesday, Mr Richmond said: “With the best will in the world it would be very difficult to mitigate against the conditions we had.
“There are occasions when we will call cancellations in advance of the weather, based on the skipper’s knowledge of local conditions and the forecasts available.
“The primary concern for the skipper is the safety of the passengers, the crew, the vessel and the pier. Once he has made his decision we will support him.”
At the same meeting, in response to an accusation that the two Rothesay-Wemyss Bay ferries, MVs Bute and Argyle, were not fit for purpose in the winter, CalMac’s public affairs manager David Cannon said the vessels had been specifically designed for the route.
“Because we are serving piers designed for paddle steamers,” Mr Cannon explained, “our boats have a very shallow draught.
“Think of a football on a pond: that’s how a lot of our boats operate. The problem is not the boats’ design, it’s the design of the piers that they serve - and that applies all over the network.
“Infrastructure decisions are not made by us - we are very, very aware of the infrastructure issue, but it’s not within our gift to solve it.”
Mr Richmond said that Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, which owns the vessels and many of the piers used by CalMac, was assessing options for the refurbishment of Wemyss Bay pier, but that it was too soon to say what the impact of that work might be on services.