Argyll Ferries

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Argyll Ferries Ltd
Private Limited Company
Industry Transport
Founded 2011
Founder Scottish Government
Headquarters Gourock, Scotland
Area served
Gourock and Dunoon, Firth of Clyde
Services Ferries
Owner Scottish Government
Parent David MacBrayne Ltd
Divisions Caledonian MacBrayne, Argyll Ferries

Argyll Ferries Ltd is a ferry company formed in January 2011 by the Scottish Governments department of Transport Scotland via the parent company David MacBrayne Ltd to tender for the Dunoon (Cowal Peninsula) to Gourock public service route. Argyll Ferries were announced as the preferred bidder at the end of May 2011,[1] contracts were exchanged on 7 June 2011 for the service, the service then commencened 23 days later on 30 June 2011.

The Argyll Ferries service has suffered from cancellations due to technical problems, or limitations of the small vessels in unfavourable weather. When this occurs, Argyll Ferries provide a relief bus service taking passengers to their destination via the Western Ferries Hunters Quay to McInroy's Point ferry.[2][3][4] In winter, the larger CalMac ferry MV Coruisk is redeployed to Gourock for peak sailings, and provides a relief service when conditions are too severe for the smaller Argyll Ferries boats.[5]


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 Caledonian Maritime Assets. Caledonian Maritime Assets LTD (CMAL) 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,[6] 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 located on the Cowal Peninsula. The service by Argyll Ferries saves journey time as the road route along Loch Eck (A815 road) side, Rest and be thankful (A83 road) and Loch Lomond (A82 road) side, is a far longer journey.


MV Argyll Flyer and Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry MV Coruisk on standby at Gourock Pier while Gourock–Dunoon sailings suspended due to adverse weather.

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."[7] 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.[8]

The service is operated under a Public Service Contract produced by Transport Scotland, a department of the Scottish Government. 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.[9] 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]

Performance Updates[edit]

West Coast Motors bus at Gourock Pier to provide "Argyll Ferries Replacement Service" via the Western Ferries McInroy's Point to Hunters Quay ferry while Gourock–Dunoon sailings suspended due to adverse weather.

Weather and technical failures continue to be problematic in 2016, with continued numerous service cancellations.[10] The larger MacBrayne ferry MV Coruisk had already been used for peak sailings and for relief sailings when available, in December 2016 Transport Minister Humza Yousaf announced that this ferry was being redeployed to Gourock for the winter.[5]

Weather and technical failures continue to be problematic in 2015, with continued numerous service cancellations.[11]

Weather and technical failures continue to be problematic in 2014, with continued numerous service cancellations.[12]

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.[13] In April the service cancelled 99 sailings[14][15]

In November 2011 the service suffered 88 weather-related cancellations, with 138 such cancellations in December.[16] 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.[17]

Service details notice at waiting room on 14 February 2017; sailings suspended due to swell conditions at Dunoon pier, replacement buses being organised.


  1. ^ "Argyll Ferries Wins Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Tender". For Argyll. 26 May 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Russell Steele (2016-02-16). "TRAVEL: Argyll Ferries axe Gourock-Dunoon services until at least 3pm (From Greenock Telegraph)". Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  5. ^ a b "Extra Gourock-Dunoon passenger ferry for winter". BBC News. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Goodwin, David (1 July 2011). "Ferry Launch is hit by first-day breakdown". Greenock Telegraph. pp. 1–2. 
  7. ^, Scottish Government, St. Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG Tel:0131 556 8400 (22 February 2012). "Gourock - Dunoon Ferry Services - Deloitte & Touche - Options for the Future of Ferry Services between Gourock and Dunoon". 
  8. ^ Goodwin, David (31 May 2011). "Firm names passenger vessels / News / Gourock / Articles". Greenock Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 August 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 2012-05-08. 
  10. ^
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  13. ^ "Ferries 'reliable' shows report / News / Gourock". Greenock Telegraph. 12 March 2012. Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  14. ^
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  16. ^
  17. ^ "Cabinet Secretary admits ferry is a failure". 

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