David MacBrayne, parent company of CalMac Ferries, has reported another year of increasing passenger numbers. Total carryings for the group broke through the 5.5 million barrier in 2017/18.

The transport and harbour operator’s continuing carrying growth is helping deliver social and economic benefits for the communities it serves.

CalMac Ferries’ passenger numbers jumped by more than 200,000 over the year to 5.3 million. The group’s other ferry operator, Argyll Ferries, carried nearly 300,000 on the Gourock to Dunoon route over the same period. Vehicle traffic increased 5 per cent to 1.4 million while freight increased 1.4 per cent to 940,000 metres carried over the same period.

Revenues climbed £15 million to £210 million delivering a profit of £4 million for the year, down from £5.3 million last year. The drop in profit was down to increased costs in planned and unplanned vessel maintenance.

A major highlight for the year was winning the contract to operate Perth harbour. In addition to operating the harbour, the company will assist Perth and Kinross Council to improve the harbour facilities and help them grow their business.

It was a successful first year of operations for CalMac’s new independent Community Board, which is improving communications with local communities and providing greater insight and focus into the type of services that island communities need over the long term.

The past year was also marked with a greater focus on environmental responsibility.

‘As part of our commitment to support a diverse and vibrant marine economy we have appointed an Environmental Manager to manage our environmental performance and deliver a variety of innovative initiatives. This has included the launch of a Marine Action Plan and the secondment of a Wildlife Officer to help educate passengers about marine life across the west coast,’ said Mr McGibbon.

As part of the company’s commitment to the Scottish Government’s ‘Year of Young People’ it increased training opportunities with the introduction of new Retail and Port Operations Modern Apprenticeships, bringing total apprentice places up to 23.

All these initiatives contributed to CalMac being crowned Ferry Operator of the Year at the UK Transport Awards 2018.

‘We are continuing to work to improve communication with all our customers including the launch of a new Integrated Operations Communications Centre. This will significantly enhance our ability to respond quickly to customers, with better levels of consistency and frequency during periods of disruption,’ added Mr McGibbon.