Port Operations point of contact: operations@cmassets.co.uk

Harbour Operations Updates

Please click here for the latest updates.

Improving marine navigational safety in Oban Harbour

We are working in partnership with Argyll and Bute council, Northern Lighthouse Board and CalMac Ferries Ltd to improve communications and navigational safety in Oban Harbour.

The project began in 2014 due to the increasing volume of ferries, commercial and marine leisure activity. Following the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on the Oban to Mull route there will be a significant increase in ferry traffic making the work of with the partnership even more relevant.

We are delighted that the hard work and continued engagement with all the stakeholders has delivered progress towards improving navigational safety in Oban Harbour and we are looking forward to continuing ongoing improvements in the harbour environment.

The partnership working has successfully delivered:

  • A fully operational website
  • very high frequency (vhf) channel
  • Single point of contact
  • Seasonal motoring advisory and guidance for small craft
  • Helicopter guidance
  • Full review and revision of navigational aids review of anchorages
  • Regular key stakeholder meetings and ongoing engagement

Currently work is progressing on a proposal for noting a central channel for large vessels on charts for the North Channel. The proposal to create such a channel is not intended to prevent existing or future use of the North Channel by small vessels, including sailing vessels but to assist with continuing safe usage of the North Channel.

The Single Point of Contact provided jointly by Argyll and Bute Council’s harbour staff at the Council owned North Pier, and CalMac Ferries’ pier and terminal staff operating at the Railway and South Piers, continues to be the focus for assistance to harbour users.

Information signs will be erected at prominent points around the harbour in the coming months. These signs will provide basic safety and navigational information to assist harbour users and the public.

Further work is planned for joint emergency planning and exercises, towage evaluation, extended CCTV, and local port service’s needs.


Information regarding CCTV installation commencing February 2016 can be downloaded here (PDF, 61kb).
Information regarding the development policy can be downloaded here (PDF 53kb).


As a harbour authority CMAL has a duty to conserve the harbour so that it is fit for use as a port. The harbour authority also has a duty of reasonable care to see that the harbour is in a fit condition for a vessel to be able to use it safely.

Harbour authorities should provide users of the harbour with enough information about conditions in the harbour such as depths of water, local Notices to Mariners, etc. and have duties and powers as local lighthouse authorities (or providers of aids to navigation); and specific powers in relation to wrecks.


Harbour authorities have a duty to find, mark and monitor the best navigable channel or channels in the harbour. A statement of the measures adopted should be included in the published policies and plans. Effective arrangements to publish appropriate hydrographic information (charts, warnings about recent navigational hazards) must also be in place.

During 2013 CMAL completed a comprehensive hydrographic survey project encompassing all ports, harbours and other geographical areas where they have responsibilities throughout the Clyde and west coast.

The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) is responsible for compiling and publishing charts for all tidal waters around the UK, together with the Admiralty Sailing Directions and CMAL has provided the UKHO with the results of their surveys.

Aids to Navigation (AtoN)

As a local lighthouse authority (LLA) CMAL is required through UK commitment to SOLAS to operate in accordance with International recommendation and guidelines. For marine Aids to Navigation the standards are set by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA).

The method of measuring Aids to Navigation and the recognised availability standards are set for each category of Aid by IALA. These are published in the IALA Aids to Navigation Guide.

IALA states that the absolute minimum level of operational availability for individual aids to navigation is 95%. If availability of an individual Aid falls below this level then consideration must be given to withdrawing the Aid to Navigation from service.

The availability of the actual Aid to Navigation (e.g. whether the light is flashing correctly or a buoy is on station) is over a 3-year continuous period. High levels of availability, which match or exceed internationally recognised standards, ensures that CMAL provides the service required by mariners in our hostile marine environment.

Categories of AtoNs

Each of the Aids to Navigation operated by CMAL is allocated an IALA category as follows:

Category 1
An Aid to Navigation that is considered by CMAL and the Northern Lighthouse Board to be of primary navigational significance. It includes the lighted aids to navigation that are considered essential for marking landfalls and primary routes.

Category 2
An Aid to Navigation that is considered by CMAL and the Northern Lighthouse to be of navigational significance. It includes lighted aids to navigation that mark secondary routes and those used to supplement the marking of primary routes.

Category 3
An Aid to Navigation that is considered by CMAL and the Northern Lighthouse to be of less navigational significance than Category 1 and 2.


Aton Availability by Category

IALA Category No of Aids Total Hours No of Failures Availability Target Availability
CAT 1 6 157,680 0 100.00% 99.80%
CAT 2 55 1,445,400 9 99.63% 99.00%
CAT 3 4 105,120 0 100.00% 97.00%
No Category 0 0 0 0.00% 0.00%
Totals 65 9


Date range: 01/04/2017 to 31/03/2020

How Performance is measured

Availability is measured by dividing total time (i.e. the sum of the total number of hours in a year multiplied by the number of Aids to Navigation in each category) into the difference between total time and the number of hours that the Aids were not available to the mariner. This calculation is then expressed as a percentage.


During 2013/14 CMAL has undertaken a programme of upgrading any remaining mains powered AtoN lights to LED lighting powered by renewable sources to both improve reliability and to contribute towards the Scottish Government’s aim of producing 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020.