The chief executive of Caledonian MacBrayne has admitted the company is “probably” more cautious about operating services in bad weather than it has been in the past.
Martin Dorchester was speaking in a BBC radio interview after a 2013-14 winter which saw weather-related disruption affect every route in the CalMac network.
“The reality for us is we only have to get that decision wrong once, and at sea, people could die,” he said.
“So I think we would always err on the side of caution.”
Mr Dorchester also said people’s understanding of the difference between safety and comfort created a big challenge for the company - and admitted there were times when a decision made in advance not to sail had led to criticism from the communities affected.
“We get a lot of complaints about times we’ve sailed and people think we shouldn’t,” he continued.
“And we say well, it wasn’t that it wasn’t safe, it just wasn’t very comfortable.
“The other challenge that we face in terms of when we sail or when we don’t sail is timing. Because our communities tend to be remote communities, because it does normally take people time to get there, it’s a really hard call: does the master leave it to the very last minute and say I’m not going to sail, or does he make a decision a few hours before?
“Invariably when he makes the decision a few hours before and says ‘I’m not going to sail’, what then tends to happen is the weather will ease down and [people] will say well, you should have sailed.
“Are we more safety conscious? I think we are. But if you look back to the Costa Concordia I think we have to be.
“We have, I think, the best trained masters in seafaring. When I go to ferry conferences now I’m seeing a rising demand for British masters, which then brings its own challenge because in a time of short supply and rising demand that has an impact on us.
“I think CalMac’s got the best trained, most experienced masters running the west of Scotland, which is dangerous water.”