GOUROCK-based ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has ploughed a record £36.5m into maintaining its ageing fleet of vessels, according to the firm’s annual accounts.

CalMac bosses say the company’s spending on maintenance has almost doubled in the last six years after a pair of reports outlining its finances were lodged last week.

In a statement published alongside its accounts, the firm said the figures demonstrated its ‘determination to provide a reliable ferry service to Scotland’s west coast communities’.

The latest annual report for David MacBrayne Ltd (DML), and a separate report for its main operating subsidiary, CalMac, has been lodged with Companies House.

CalMac Ferries Limited is headquartered in Gourock and delivers port and ferry services to the Clyde and Hebrides through its contract with Transport Scotland and Port Glasgow based, Scottish Government-owned body CMAL.

It runs the local Gourock to Dunoon and Kilcreggan crossings, plus the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route.

In the financial year ending March 2023, the annual report from DML shows that CalMac spent £36.5m on maintenance and its annual overhaul programme.

With one third of vessels now over 30 years old and operating beyond their life expectancy, the spend has been essential to provide a lifeline service to island communities and is up from £20m in 2017.

Transport Scotland and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd also contributed funding to support maintaining the fleet.

Actual reliability was at 95 per cent, up from 93 per cent the previous year.

Overall, CalMac recorded an operating loss of £4.9m. However, there was a net profit of £18.6m due to DML’s decision to sell its 50 per cent in Solent Gateway Ltd to Associated British Ports, which raised £22.4m.

Robbie Drummond, CalMac’s chief executive, said: “CalMac has been operating in extremely challenging conditions in recent years.

“However, we have been doing everything in our power to provide a lifeline service to the communities we serve and that is why we are investing in maintenance at record levels.

“DML’s decision to sell its stake in Solent Gateway Ltd is an example of our entrepreneurial spirit and has supported our balance sheet this financial year.”

The DML report also shows CalMac operated 169,929 sailings over the 12-month period, the equivalent of 465 per day. The total number of sailings is an 11 per cent increase on the previous financial year (152,275).

Transport Scotland funded the lease of MV Alfred, a catamaran, from Pentland Ferries, in February 2023 to support the CalMac fleet.

CalMac bosses say the addition of the vessel proved ‘invaluable’ and said she will continue to support their network in 2024.

Mr Drummond added: “This report shows that we are moving in the right direction albeit with a financial loss this year.

“However, we know that the service hasn’t always been up to the standards it needs to be and that some communities have felt the brunt of this more than others.

“We have been and will continue making a real effort to engage and listen to the people we serve and learn from recent challenges, and we are committed to improving.

“The arrival of six new major and seven small vessels in the next few years should transform the service across the whole network.

“The transport secretary and the communities we serve have made it clear that they want the next phase of the Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services contract to be different, and we share that desire.

“CalMac’s aim is to be flexible, responsive and trusted and we will work hard with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to build closer relationships with all our stakeholders.”

Over five million people travelled on a CalMac ferry throughout the year, with an average of over 13,700 passengers every day.

There was a seven per cent increase in car journeys on the previous year, with 1,441,649 vehicles travelling on the network, while there were 80,768 trips by commercial vehicles.