25th August 2006


CalMac, V-ships and Western have been shortlisted for the Gourock-Dunoon tender. The next few paragraphs are taken from the Invitation to Tender, and details the kind of information that tenderers should submit as part of their bid, by October 30th 2006.

"The Executive is looking for tenderers to conclude agreements with the VesCo, which is shortly to be created (who will own Gourock Pier) for the use of Gourock Pier and Argyll and Bute Council for the use of the facilities at Dunoon".(page 12, Invitation to Tender)

"Tenderers are therefore invited to outline the passenger facilities they intend to utilise at Gourock and Dunoon, and confirm that they have concluded contingent agreements with
VesCo and Argyll and Bute Council"
.(page 12, Invitation to Tender)

"Piers: Statement confirming that the tenderer has concluded a contingent agreement with VesCo for utilising Gourock pier, and is content with the proposed harbour access fee". (page 20 Invitation to Tender)

"Passenger Facilities:Tenderers to outline what passenger facilities they intend to utilise
at Gourock and Dunoon, and provide a clear statement confirming that they have concluded contingent agreements with VesCo and Argyll and Bute Council for utilising any facilities".
(page 20 Invitation to Tender)

"Vessels: Tenderers to clearly identify the vessel(s) they intend to utilise on the route. If tenderers intend to utilise any of the two available VesCo vessels, they should identify which vessel(s) they intend to utilise and confirm that they have concluded a contingent vessel leasing agreement with VesCo".(page 20-21 Invitation to Tender)

Tenders must be submitted by 30th October,so these agreements must be concluded before then, with announcement of preferred bidder in January 2007.

There is only one problem. While Vesco was first publicly mooted by Sarah Boyack April 2000, it still does not exist (as Executive concedes early in the tender documument), further there is no apparent signs of it being set up in the near future. The Invitation to Tender notes: "given that the restructuring of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd into the vessel and asset leasing company (VesCo) and an operating company has yet to take place, then tenderers should direct any questions relating to VesCo’s involvement in this tendering exercise to the Executive in the first instance" (page 6).

So it will be as impossible for tenderers to demonstrate they have achieved contingent agreements with Vesco before October 30th this year, as it would for me to demonstrate a contingent agreement with the Tooth Fairy to compensate my children in the event of the loss of a tooth. Since neither Vesco nor the Tooh Fairy exist, it is impossible to sign contracts, whether contingent or not, with these non-existent entities.

Who does the job in the context of the various "agreements" that the Executive says should be demonstrated by October 30th? Who has the expert knowledge of how all these things work? Why CalMac of course. Can you imagine any tenderer going to CalMac for advice / help on this? But iff they were serious about bidding they would have to do just that and risk giving away their commercial plans for the route in the process. Apart from asking help from a supposed rival for the contract, if CalMac did help they could be accused of collusive behaviour in the bidding process.

Demonstrate in the tender process you have negotiated several contracts with an entity that does not exist? Kafka would be proud.

Neil Kay