Argyll Ferries

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Argyll Ferries Ltd
Private Limited Company
Industry Transport
Founded 2011
Headquarters Gourock, Scotland
Area served
River Clyde
Services Ferries
Owner Scottish Government
Parent David MacBrayne Ltd

Argyll Ferries is a ferry company formed in January 2011 by parent company David MacBrayne Ltd to tender for the Dunoon to Gourock route. They were announced as the preferred bidder at the end of May 2011,[1] contracts were exchanged on 7 June for the service to commence 23 days later on 30 June 2011. The service suffered initial technical problems and has ongoing problems in unfavourable weather.


Argyll Flyer and Ali Cat in the new Argyll Ferries livery, at Gourock pierhead.
MV Clyde Clipper arriving at Gourock, on the Argyll Ferries service from Dunoon.

Argyll Ferries Ltd operates two passenger vessels on the route, MV Ali Cat and MV Argyll Flyer. Both are leased from their owner David MacBrayne Ltd. CalMac had previously run the Ali Cat on a 9-year lease from Isle of Wight Cruises but she was bought outright for the new service. The Argyll Flyer, formerly the ten-year-old Irish ferry, Connemara Queen, was purchased specifically for the new service.

When the service began on 30 June 2011, preparation of the Argyll Flyer had been held up by broken rear prop shafts. As an interim measure the cruise boat MV Clyde Clipper was leased from Clyde Cruises to start the service. She suffered breakdowns during the first day,[2] then continued in interim service alongside the other two ferries for a short period.

In the past, ferries operated by Caledonian MacBrayne have provided additional support on the route; notably the MV Saturn during the Cowal Gathering in August 2011 and the MV Coruisk in December 2013.


The service operates between a vehicle linkspan at the breakwater in Dunoon town centre and a vehicle linkspan in Gourock town centre immediately adjacent to Gourock rail terminal. Regular trains to Glasgow Central via Paisley are available from the train station.

Dunoon is situated on the Cowal peninsula.


A previous report by Deloitte Touche on options for the route stated that, for a passenger only service, "Large hulls are required to suit Upper Clyde water, but the vessels would be fitted out to accommodate only 150 people, which would meet the requirements of passenger traffic on most days of the year."[3] Concerns were expressed about the suitability of these small boats in rough weather. However a spokesman for the parent company of the ferry operators, David MacBrayne Ltd, gave assurances that the ferries were suitable, and would have the advantage of using the new sheltered berth at Dunoon instead of the old pier which is more exposed.[4]

The service is operated under a Public Service Contract produced by Transport Scotland. The contract permits sailings that fail to take place due to safety considerations including adverse weather to be counted as if they had sailed for the purposes of reliability under the contract, subject to due diligence to minimise such delays.[5] The contract also permits each boat to have two weeks per year of scheduled maintenance therefore, since there is no provision for relief vessels, a half service operates for at least four weeks each year.[citation needed]

In November 2011 the service suffered 88 weather-related cancellations, with 138 such cancellations in December.[6] Figures indicated cancellation or disruption of 3.6% of sailings since July. In response to complaints from passengers, the Scottish Government cabinet secretary Alex Neil said the service was "not fit for purpose" and said he had asked the company to produce an improvement plan.[7]

In March 2012 Argyll Ferries announced performance figures for February and March. They stated that the service had been very reliable contractually, showing good punctuality, and said that passenger numbers were beginning to increase.[8]

In April the service cancelled 99 sailings[9]


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