MV Saturn

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MV Saturn arriving at Gourock in May 2009
MV Saturn arriving at Gourock in May 2009
Career (UK) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Name: MV Saturn
Owner: Caledonian Maritime Assets
Operator: Caledonian MacBrayne
Port of registry: Glasgow

Firth of Clyde
1977 – 1986: Rothesay

1986 – 2000: Wemyss Bay - Rothesay/Gourock - Dunoon
/ Clyde Cruises

2000 – 2005: Wemyss Bay - Rothesay/Gourock - Dunoon

2005 – 2011: Wemyss Bay - Rothesay/Gourock - Dunoon
/ Summer Ardrossan-Brodick

2011 –  : Laid up, Rosneath.
Builder: Ailsa Shipbuilding Company, Troon
Yard number: 552
Launched: 30 June 1977
Maiden voyage: 2 February 1978
Out of service: 30 August 2011
Identification: IMO number: 7615490[1]

Callsign: GXID

MMSI Number: 232003374
Status: Laid up, awaiting future at Rosneath
General characteristics
Tonnage: 851 GRT
Length: 69.5 m (228 ft)
Beam: 13.8 m (45 ft)
Draft: 2.45 m (8 ft)
Depth: 4 m (13 ft)
Installed power: 2 x Mirrlees Blackstone 4SCSA 8-cylinder oil engines, 1000 bhp each
Propulsion: 2 Voith Schneider propellors, one at each end of the hull, on the centreline
Speed: approximately 12 knots
Capacity: 531 passengers, 38 cars
Crew: 10
Notes: [2]

MV Saturn is a passenger and vehicle ferry owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets, the youngest and last remaining of the three "streakers". She was operated by Caledonian MacBrayne in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland between 1977 and 2011, operating the Rothesay crossing for the first decade of her career. Her ro-ro open car deck is accessible by stern and side ramps. Fore-and-aft Voith-Schneider units make her highly manoeuvrable, reducing turn round times. Retired from service in August 2011, Saturn remains laid up at Rosneath.


MV Saturn was an evolution of the design used in the earlier MV Jupiter and MV Juno, that launched in 1974. Instead of conventional propellers, all three vessels had two fore-and-aft Voith-Schneider units, which had been so successful on the fleet's 1972 Skye ferries.[3] This propulsion system made the streakers highly manoeuvrable, greatly reducing turn round times at each end of a route. Thrust can be directed through a full 360 degrees, removing the need for a rudder. The amount of thrust and hence the vessel's speed, is controlled by varying the pitch, while the engine runs at a constant speed.[4]

Saturn incorporates a large open car deck towards the stern, with passenger accommodation and services towards the bow across three decks. The design is of the roll-on/roll-off type, with cars driving on via either the stern ramp or via one of the ramps amidships that lower to port and starboard respectively. She has two passenger lounges, one with a cafeteria. There is crew accommodation on the upper deck and open-air passenger areas.

Unlike her quasi-sister ships, MV Jupiter and Juno, Saturn's bridge is one deck above the upper passenger deck. Passengers therefore have access right round the front of the ship, allowing views directly over the bow.[5][6] Saturn does not have the tripod mast of her quasi-sisters.[7]


Together with her sister ships, Saturn formed a new generation of car ferries built in the 1970s to serve the routes on the Firth of Clyde. These ships were nicknamed the "Streakers" because of their greater speed (compared to what had served the area’s routes previously) and superb manoeuvrability (due to their novel propulsion units).[5]

With "Rothesay Ferry" emblazoned on her hull, Saturn operated primarily on the Wemyss BayRothesay crossing for much of her first decade.[7] From 1986, a new rostering policy saw the three streakers switching between the Rothesay and Dunoon routes. The third vessel provided additional peak sailings on both crossings, served Kilcreggan and, between 1993 and 1999, provided cruises on summer afternoons. Later, there were two vessels at Rothesay for most of the day.

After more than 35 years, the Streakers, were replaced by a new generation of CalMac ferries designed for the Upper Firth, just as in the 1970s they had replaced an earlier generation. MV Argyle and MV Bute had been in service on the Rothesay route since 2007/2005. With Bute's introduction, Saturn moved down the firth to Ardrossan, assisting MV Caledonian Isles on the Brodick crossing during summer.[6] MV Juno was dismantled on the Clyde and on 25 June 2011, her sister MV Jupiter was towed from her long-term home to be broken up in Denmark.[citation needed]

Saturn was the main ferry on the Dunoon route for the last 9 months of the vehicle crossing. The Caledonian MacBrayne vehicle service there finished on 29 June 2011[8] and Saturn returned to assisting at Ardrossan. She was back on the Bute run on 20 August 2011 to provide extra sailings for the Bute Highland Games[citation needed], subsequently returning to her old haunts at Gourock on 27 August 2011 to help out the Argyll Ferries passenger ferries on the busiest weekend of the year for the Cowal Gathering (Highland Games) in Dunoon. These turned out to be her final passenger sailings for Calmac, as she was no longer required in the fleet with no Gourock-Dunoon vehicle service and the MV Isle of Arran being spare following the introduction of the MV Finlaggan.[9]

Saturn was de-stored at Gourock and left for Rosneath on 30 August 2011. She was laid up and has been berthed there ever since, awaiting her future.[10] In November 2011, she moved to the inside of the pier to clear a space for the MV Coruisk. Though still shown as a "relief" vessel for Calmac, in March 2012 it was suggested that the vessel had been at least partially stripped since being laid up - frustrating calls by local activists to have her re-instated on the Dunoon-Gourock route as a replacement for the MV Ali Cat. By July 2012, Saturn had been de-registered from the Calmac fleet. She had no sailing certificate and this was highly unlikely to be renewed[citation needed] with MV Isle of Arran having taken over her only remaining work, the Summer additional sailing to Brodick from Ardrossan. She remains laid up at Rosneath in July 2013.[11]


  1. ^ "7615490". Miramar Ship Index. (subscription required)
  2. ^ "MV Saturn". Ships of CalMac. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Keppel: History". Ships of Calmac. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Jupiter: History". Ships of Calmac. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  5. ^ a b McCrorie, Ian (1980). Ships of the Fleet -- Caledonian MacBrayne. Caledonian MacBrayne. ISBN 0-9507166-0-X. 
  6. ^ a b McCrorie, Ian (1985). Hebridean and Clyde Ferries of Caledonian MacBrayne. Caledonian MacBrayne. 
  7. ^ a b "History of MV Saturn". Ships of CalMac. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  8. ^ Aileen MacNicol (30 June 2011). "Dunoon Ferry Farewell". Dunoon Observer. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Ferry Firm Hail Games Success As Time To Draw Line Under 'Disappointing' Start". Inverclyde Now. 29 August 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "Thread: Saturn for Roseneath". Ships of Calmac Forum (requires registration). Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "MV Saturn Languishes at Rosneath". Dave Forbes Photography on Flickr. Retrieved 4 September 2013.