Building and maintaining Scottish ferry terminals

Karen Jamieson, Buildings and Property Manager

Ranging from small waiting rooms to large, busy terminals like Brodick or Oban, CMAL looks after 24 buildings across our network in the Firth of Clyde and around the Hebrides.

In addition to maintaining existing buildings, we also have an ongoing programme of refurbishment and new builds, to ensure our property facilities are comfortable, modern, and fit for purpose. One such project is the recently announced contract award for the new terminal at Tarbert (Harris), which will be completed by spring 2023; and there are a lot of considerations behind designing a new terminal building or refurbishing an existing site.

We work closely with the ferry operator, CalMac Ferries Limited and local community groups to agree the requirements for each new building; for example, how many waiting room seats are needed, whether the location will be staffed, and the extent of the customer facilities required. The space available for many of our buildings is restricted due to the size of the site we have available, so we work together to ensure we use all the space as efficiently as possible.

Sustainability and accessibility are two of our key areas of focus, and we are working to ensure that our buildings are accessible to all. In fact, our new terminal at Tarbert will be home to our first Changing Places changing toilet in the Western Isles. We already have a Changing Places toilet in Brodick and these aim to provide the space and specialist equipment required for those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well other disabilities, that severely limit mobility. These customers can’t comfortably use a standard accessible toilet.

Even in the early design stages, we are thinking to the future and sustainability – what maintenance will be required? Does the technology we are installing require a specialist to fix it if something goes wrong? Is there someone in the local area that will be qualified to carry out maintenance?

With the remoteness of some locations, we want to ensure if issues arise, a local team can assist quickly with the repairs. That’s why we work with 24 proactive maintenance contractors and have a further 12 smaller reactive contractors across Scotland. Ensuring a solid network means that we can keep our sites safe and open, with minimal disruption. For example, the new Tarbert building will be constructed by an island-based contactor, who is well equipped and experienced in the logistical issues that can come with working in the Western Isles.

We also consider using materials that require less upkeep and can withstand the elements. Using materials that don’t require external redecoration on a regular basis, for example, reduces costs, travel, and disruption to the travelling public. Some of our sites still require yearly maintenance, whereas others can go much longer.

Ideally, most of our maintenance would be carried out in the summer months, to minimise the negative effect that bad weather can cause, like delays and difficulty travelling. However, this comes with its own challenges as it’s during these busy summer months, that we see the highest number of passengers and it can be tricky to find accommodation on these wonderful islands.