Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Another End of an Era as Island Ferry Retires from Service

CalMac Vessel Built Lifeline Routes to Remote Communities
Shipping News Feature
UK – Last month we remarked on the passing of one of the country's landmark vessels, RMS St Helena as she sailed away on her last official voyage and this month it is the turn of another piece of very British maritime history as ferry operator CalMac reports the retirement of MV Raasay,the last of the Island class ferries which, albeit a much smaller ship, like her Royal Mail carrying sister was one which provided a lifeline to remote island communities.

Christened after one of the Scottish islands she originally served, the small ferry was drafted onto the Sconser to Raasay route following her launch in 1976, a service she maintained for the next 21 years. Increased timber traffic from the island prompted her temporary retirement with a listing as fleet’s relief vessels until being pressed back into regular service again in 2003 as the winter ferry serving Kilchoan-Tobermory.

The Island class vessels transformed services for CalMac, they opened up a new route to Arran, two additional routes to Mull and provided a safe and reliable link from Skye to Raasay. Being virtually interchangeable they greatly increased the flexibility of the fleet. Nobody could accuse the MV Raasay of over sophistication. Based on old World War II landing craft, the Island class design was very simple yet very effective.

The ferries had a two-part folding ramp at the bow, an open plan car deck incorporating a small turntable immediately aft and a sheltered area of passenger accommodation at the stern, on top of which was positioned the wheelhouse. The main mast was positioned at the bow, above the ramp and the radar mast sat on top of the bridge, just forward of the small funnel and engine exhaust.

Loading of these little ferries, capable of carrying just seven cars and up to 75 passengers, was a relatively simple affair. Small slipways were constructed at their respective terminals. On approach to these slipways, the ramp would be lowered to the water, this tactic was to prevent the risk of the vessel becoming stranded on the slipway. Once ashore hydraulic rams lowered the front of the ramp to the slip allowing disembarkation.

The Island Class ferries were particularly versatile, readily interchangeable they were often found covering for each other and in many cases working in tandem to provide extra capacity. In addition to their regular duties, they were often called upon to provide extra runs for commercial purposes due to their ability to load and discharge vehicles, goods and livestock at remote locations, not necessarily boasting the luxury of a slipway – a gently sloping stretch of beach or shingle would suffice!

CalMac claims the title of the UK’s largest ferry company, last year carrying more than 1.4 million passengers and 1.1 million vehicles and MV Raasay has now been handed back to owner Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) who are expected to announce a buyer for the vessel shortly. Jonathan Davies, CalMac’s small vessel technical superintendent said:

”The Raasay has been an excellent servant over the years and it always sad to see a vessel with so much history with the company moving on. Her excellent sea keeping properties meant that in 21 years serving on the Raasay route she never missed a day’s service.”

Photo: Gordon Law and Stuart Craig of the Clyde River Steamer Club joined CalMac’s small vessel technical superintendent, Jonathan Davies for a last look around the vessel.