Orkney Islands Council Urged To Opt For Catamarans

Orkney Islands Council members are being urged to add catamarans to the mix of options being considered as they plan how to replace their out-of-date Orkney Ferries fleet.

Robert Leslie, SNP candidate for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, has sent all 21 councillors a video presentation by Dr Alf Baird that looks at the case for catamarans compared to monohull vessels. The presentation has also been circulated to members of Orkney’s 20 community councils.

Robert Leslie said:

“The subject of replacing the ancient Orkney Ferries fleet is never far from the top of the agenda among issues that Orkney Islands Council and the Scottish Government need to find agreement on.

“From an outside view, it appears that the council has approached the Scottish Government consistently with a funding plea but no clear plan for how the ferry fleet should be replaced, and there is no agreement so far on the funding of such a project.

“Catamarans are one option that could solve this problem. They’re cheaper to build than traditional monohull vessels, can carry more cargo for the same length and are cheaper to run.

“Various financial models could be used to finance a replacement project, including leasing, rather than outright ownership. Orkney is a world leader in many areas. A modern fleet of catamarans powered by renewable energy would enhance our reputation on the world stage.”

Mr Leslie said that the presentation, originally made to Orkney SNP members over a year ago, was being offered as a means of stimulating debate on the future shape of Orkney’s ferry services.

Recently, Leader of OIC James Stockan again raised the issue of Orkney’s ferries, both internal and those which provide links to the Scottish mainland. James Stockan is wanting the Scottish Government to introduce RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) on routes both for inter islands and to the mainland of Scotland.

James Stockan said:

“I’m asking the Minister to work with us in finally rolling out RET equivalent fares for Orkney – a move critical to our economic recovery, which will have an immediate impact on the daily lives of folk in some of our most fragile communities and provide a welcome boost for our tourism businesses as we look forward with hope to a brighter 2021.”

Orkney’s ageing internal ferry fleet is run by Orkney Ferries (owned by Orkney Islands Council).

The internal ferry fleet has recently had added to it the Nordic Sea which is small passenger only .

Pentland Ferries also operates a catamaran on its route from St Margaret’s Hope to Gills Bay in Scotland

Robert Leslie added

“This isn’t presented as a fully-worked solution to the current Orkney Ferries issue, but merely as a potential option to add to any others being considered by OIC. “

4 replies »

  1. Such a difficult decision NOT!
    OIC you know this makes sense surely
    Be good to have included plans for renewable power source (hydrogen / fuel cells…)

  2. only one way to get the money from Holyrood -start voting SNP and that’s a price that isn’t worth paying

  3. Dear Sir/Madam
    I was most interested to read about Robert Leslie’s recommendation that Orkney Islands Council consider catamarans as they plan how to replace the out-of-date Orkney Ferries fleet which is capacity constrained in terms of vehicles (but not passengers), thereby frustrating demand, reliability and limiting revenue. I too have seen the video presentation by Dr Alf Baird comparing catamarans with monohull vessels and, having studies ferry operations worldwide am totally convinced that catamarans are by far the best option for Orkneys North and South Isles.

    The reliability, economy and environmental credentials of catamarans are now well proven in Orkney following a decade of operational experience by Pentland Ferries of Pentalina and more recently Alfred. As a demonstration of this, during January and February storms and gales last year (2020). While monohull Hamnavoe was unable to sail for five full days and for parts of another two days, Alfred, with her much lower profile and reduced windage sailed as normal and with much greater operational economy. Tellingly, CalMac Ferries Marine Manager, explained, “Major Vessels (i.e. monohulls) have to contend with considerable windage effects making berthing and unberthing challenging.”

    Superior reliability is not the only advantage of catamarans. Dr Baird rightly compared the capacity and speed of the existing inter-island fleet with replacement proven catamarans of equivalent length, as shown in this table.

    35 metre length 50 metre length
    Existing Monohull Catamaran Existing Monohull Catamaran

    Beam 10m 17m 11.4m 18m
    Draft 1.8m 1.8m 3m 2.2m
    Power 0.7 Mw 0.9 Mw 1.6 Mw 1.8 Mw
    Speed 10 / 11 knots 12 knots 12 / 14 knots 14 knots
    Cars 16 30 28 50
    Passengers 121 125 142 250

    It will be noted that for equivalent length and power. The catamaran enjoys almost twice the vehicle carrying capacity compared with the current monohull vessels. Thus replacing the whole existing vehicle ferry fleet (six vessels) with catamarans of equivalent length would at a stroke give a 98% increase in vehicle capacity. With twin ramps, cats can access any existing terminal without modification.

    Dr Baird demonstrated that the capital cost of replacing the Orkney inter-island fleet with catamarans was around £60 million as compared with £108 million for monohull replacements which translates as annual capital repayments plus interest at 4% over 25 years of £3.8 million for the catamaran option as compared with £6.9 million for monohulls. There are a number of ways this can be funded.

    Incidentally, as the original architect of RET, that was a concept of the 1970s. There are more sophisticated fares structures that can better serve island needs. But more important for now is to have the right fleet. Catamarans are the answer.

    In summary
    • New ferries will reduce fleet repair and maintenance and downtime
    • Catamaran price per car space is just 30% of monohull
    • Catamarans have 50% less operating cost/car space
    • Catamarans have 50% less emissions per car space
    • Catamarans can double ferry capacity, at reduced cost
    • Funding can be secured by government loans; lease; grants; joint funding
    • Doubling vehicle capacity will raise revenues, to enable RET or better fare schemes

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