Cowal Ferries and Flying Dutchmen

I am not sure I have all the facts right as of now, so this is subject to amendment, but this is my best shot as of today, 14th March 2007.

Until recently, when I used the Gourock-Dunoon ferry, I would walk on the pier infrastructure at Dunoon owned and operated by the council, after that I was conveyed to and from Gourock by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac)..

So here goes, deep breath.

Now, from April 1st when I use the Gourock-Dunoon ferry, I will walk on the pier infrastructure owned and operated by the council, buy a passenger ticket for the Cowal Ferries service from CalMac Ferries, a subsidiary company of David MacBrayne Ltd, acting as an agent here for Cowal Ferries, though I still buy the ticket from an employee of Cowal Ferries (further confusing because "Cowal Ferries" does not actually own or operate any ferries) then I will walk past a pier worker employed by Argyll and Bute Council before I walk on to a vessel owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets limited who have leased the vessel to CalMac Ferries Ltd, who are presumably also acting as agents for Cowal Ferries in operating the service.

The crew that take me to Gourock will be employees of Caledonian MacBrayne Crewing (Guernsey) Ltd who supply the crew to CalMac Ferries. When the vessel docks at Gourock, I will walk down a gangway minded by pier workers employed by CalMac Ferries, on to infrastructure owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets, ask for a timetable from the lady behind the counter in the ticket office employed by Cowal Ferries (this now even more confusing because not only does Cowal Ferries not own or operate any ferries, we are now in Gourock, not Cowal) and if after all this I want to complain about the way that these employees are being shunted around and managed and knock on the HR door, then it is probably hard luck because I will find myself staring at an employee of another company Caledonian MacBrayne HR (UK) Ltd.

When I start back on my journey to Dunoon, I may plan to catch the 5.45 Ali Cat which is advertised as a CalMac (don't ask which CalMac) service The Ali Cat is actually chartered from Red Funnel Line (by whom, I am now no longer sure), who in turn have chartered her from her owners, Solent & Wightline Cruises. Who actually employs the crew on the Ali Cat "CalMac" service is one of these questions which which has as much chance of a credible response as asking who did the catering for the Flying Dutchman. Maybe we should ask the crew themselves, but they sail so infrequently because of timetable and weather restrictions (they can only sail in knee-high waves, you know the kind you get in paddling pools) that there would be more chance of discussing table settings with the short order chef on the Flying Dutchman.

Which also makes it even more bizare that the company press release today says about the proposals for the Gourock-Dunoon route and the Rathlin Island route in NI that it intends to "transfer the operation of the business on these routes to new companies, Cowal Ferries Limited and Rathlin Ferries Limited ....Tickets will be issued in the same way and will be sold by CalMac Ferries Ltd, which is acting as an agent for the two new companies responsible for operating the routes".

But if Cowal Ferries does not own or operate any ferries, does not employ or manage any of the staff that crews ferries, then if even the ticketing is taken over by CalMac Ferries acting as "agent" for Cowal Ferries, then what is Cowal Ferries for and what does it actually do, indeed does it actually exist?

And they thought the Flying Dutchman was a fanciful story

Neil Kay 14th March 2007