CalMac defends Bute fog cancellations

Waiting in the Colintraive fog for ferry services to resume on Thursday, October 1.
Waiting in the Colintraive fog for ferry services to resume on Thursday, October 1.

Caledonian MacBrayne has defended its masters’ decisions not to set sail on either of Bute’s ferry routes due to heavy fog earlier this month.

Both the Rhubodach-Colintraive and Rothesay-Gourock routes were suspended on the morning of Thursday, October 1 after the Kyles and the Firth of Clyde were covered by a blanket of thick fog which reduced visibility to a couple of hundred yards.

Western Ferries, however, continued sailing between McInroy’s Point and Hunter’s Quay without any disruption.

Bute Community Council (BCC) member Tony Harrison was one of those left waiting at Rhubodach until late morning, when the fog lifted sufficiently to allow the short sailing across the Kyles to resume.

“The CalMac captain’s decision not to sail appeared to be an over-reaction,” he told BCC’s October meeting this week.

“The crossing distance of the Kyles is 430 yards. Along with another traveller I ascertained visibility of at least 175 yards. The vessel is properly equipped with radar, and Western Ferries suffered no disruption whatsoever.

“The Kyles is not a busy shipping lane, and certainly not as busy as the Rothesay-Gourock route. Why was the Kyles ferry suspended when Western sailed as normal?

“As a community council we are committed to making this island a better place to live, and we have a responsibility to pressure those who can help improve the service.”

A CalMac spokesperson said: “It is the vessel master’s decision alone to decide whether it is safe to sail or not. If, in his or her considered professional opinion, they believe that restricted visibility means it is unsafe to sail, then they will not do so.

“Radar or ECSs do not provide a foolproof means of collision avoidance.”