Lessons can be learned
Sir, After reading your coverage of the proposed redeployment of the MV Isle of Arran to temporarily cover the Islay route, I would like to reinforce our efforts to provide clarity and confirmation of what our plans were during this period.
Having to withdraw the MV Hebridean Isles from the Islay route caused serious capacity issues for the island. We had to work hard to redeploy thousands of passengers booked on the service, no easy task. To manage the situation we took a number of steps including the chartering of a freight vessel to carry cars and moving the MV Finlaggan on to 24-hour operations.
However, we felt there was still going to be serious capacity issues on the route during one of the island’s busiest periods of the year, the Islay Show week.
To provide additional cover, plans were started to redeploy the MV Isle of Arran in the event of the MV Hebridean Isles still being out of service during this period. While acknowledging this would cause disruption to the communities of Arran, the island’s ferry committee agreed this was a necessary move in the circumstances.
I can assure customers that we informed them as soon as a final decision was made to move the MV Isle of Arran. This was announced on the Friday with the vessel due to move to the Islay route on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week.
Bookings were closed earlier than this to allow us to manage traffic and passenger demand, but we could not inform customers that the vessel was definitely moving because this decision had not been taken at this time. We could not confirm the decision to move the vessel any sooner than we did.
In the event, repairs to the MV Hebridean Isles were completed and the redeployment of the MV Isle of Arran was not required.
Redeploying vessels is never a easy task. It takes time and planning, sometimes for eventualities that never happen, as in this case. We felt that telling customers the vessel was moving before we had explored all options would add nothing to their ability to base their travel plans on accurate information.
We are continually striving to improve how we communicate with customers. This was a extraordinary set of circumstances that we had to try and manage as best we could within the limited fleet resource we have available. We will, as always, be looking at what lessons can be learned for the future to improve the way we communicate our decisions with customers.
Simon Richmond Area Manager (South) Caledonian MacBrayne