What’s in a Name?

Brian Fulton, Head of Business Support

The tradition of naming a ship has stood the test of time, adding a touch of creativity to the highly technical process of building a ferry. While every other aspect of ferry construction involves technical decisions and precise engineering, the naming brings an encompassing and imaginative element to the forefront.

Artist's impression of new Islay vessel

However, there is no standard approach to ferry naming—it’s a creative process that varies with each project. Considering the number of ferry naming projects in the pipeline for CMAL in future years, we must tackle each ferry’s name selection individually but always consider any existing themes for sister ships and listen to the views of individuals involved in the shortlisting process.

Typically, the chosen theme for ferry names revolves around the geography or history of the surrounding area. To facilitate name selection, CMAL refers to the previous names of all West Coast ferries dating back to the 1800s to ensure we keep Scotland’s maritime heritage in mind. From this extensive list, some members of the local community associated with the ferry project are given the opportunity to contribute by picking names to be put forward for initial consideration.

The next step is for CMAL to verify the availability of each name suggested. This involves checking whether the names are already registered under a UK flag. If they are, we cannot use them. We reserve the names that are available, ensuring they can be used during the public voting period.

After the winning name for the ferry has been selected, we fast forward to when the ferry is ready to be launched. This is commonly when the official naming ceremony takes place.

Announcing the magical words “I name this ship…” and smashing a bottle over the bow, the ferry then slides down the slipway onto the water, officially declaring it ready for service.

Visit our news section on the CMAL website to learn more about the recent naming of the Islay ferries.

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