Vessel designer laments Scottish government rejection of catamaran ferries

Photo: Sea Transport Solutions

An Australia-based naval architect has criticised what he calls the unwillingness of government officials in Scotland to acquire modern catamaran ferries to replace the aging vessels still in use on the country’s West Coast.

In a recent interview with The Daily Mail, Stuart Ballantyne, owner of Gold Coast-based Sea Transport Solutions (STS), said Scotland has become “the laughing stock of the ferry industry” following years of government refusal to commit to the construction of safer, more modern passenger vessels.

Mr Ballantyne, who was born near Glasgow and later moved to Australia in the 1960s, said he has made yearly visits to Scotland since 2008 with the intent of convincing officials to consider proven vessel designs as alternatives to some locally built monohull ferries in serving the West Coast routes.

The STS-designed vessels have a number of local supporters in the country, among them retired Napier University Professor Alfred Baird, who claims he is a regular passenger on the ferry route between Caithness and Orkney.

Professor Baird said that reluctance to acquire catamarans nonetheless persists. This is despite local users’ continued lobbying for the purchase of Mr Ballantyne’s proven ferries, examples of which are already in operation in 47 countries including the Bahamas, Brazil, China, Fiji, the Netherlands, Oman, and the Philippines.

Scottish government officials have meanwhile refuted Mr Ballantyne’s claims, citing the latter’s “complete lack of understanding” of policy-related decision making.

An official added that investments worth £580 million (US$783.3 million) will be made in new vessels and port improvements over the next five years with the goal of improving existing ferry services.

Mr Ballantyne, however, said that the £580 million will be better spent “if disciplined and experienced people are involved.”

Baird Maritime

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