Ferry services ‘can’t stay afloat forever’ – MSP

Want to read more?

At the start of the pandemic in March we took the decision to make online access to our news free of charge by taking down our paywall. At a time where accurate information about Covid-19 was vital to our community, this was the right decision – even though it meant a drop in our income. In order to help safeguard the future of our journalism, the time has now come to reinstate our paywall, However, rest assured that access to all Covid related news will still remain free. To access all other news will require a subscription, as it did pre-pandemic The good news is that for the whole of December we will be running a special discounted offer to get 3 months access for the price of one month. Thanks you for supporting us during this incredibly challenging time

 

We value our content, so access to our full site is  only available on subscription.

Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device.

And there’s more – your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards

Already a subscriber?

 

Subscribe Now

Ferry operators are facing ‘significant losses,’ but cannot stay afloat forever without help, the country’s transport secretary has warned.

Michael Matheson MSP has added his signature today to a letter from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments warning that some routes could sink unless there is intervention.

It has been sent to UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to sound the alarm bell over the future of services in places like the Western Isles.

Ferry companies have faced significant losses since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the crackdown on travel, restrictions on movements and some freight.

Politicians are warning that ferry companies will need to make ‘decisions’ on ‘loss-making routes’ in coming days as carrying on with reduced passengers and staffing numbers may not be sustainable longer term.

It comes as CalMac, which offers 33 vessels serving 28 routes, has revealed its passenger numbers have dropped by 95 per cent since new rules on essential ferry travel were put in place.

The company has carried just 2,593 passengers compared to 57,233 for the same period last year, although company MD Robbie Drummond welcomed the fact the public is paying attention to government advice not to travel.

The company, he said, remained committed to running ‘lifeline services’ to the islands.

Some of the asks of the UK government include an ‘immediate and temporary’ relaxation of the competition regulations and a confirmation that seafaring companies will qualify for the employee support scheme.

Mr Matheson said: ‘My officials and I have kept in touch with ports and ferry operators over the past few weeks and they have expressed substantial concerns with their operations over this difficult period.

‘I believe that without further intervention operators will need to take difficult commercial decisions which could be avoided, and that it will be extremely difficult to recover from that after we make it through this crisis.

‘Current reductions in freight traffic are also a serious issue in their own right.

‘There is a strong case for the UK Government to do more to support this vital sector during these unprecedented times and I look forward to their response on this important matter.’