The Small Vessel Replacement Programme aims to achieve a very substantial renewal of the small vessel fleet during the next 10 years.

Small Vessel Replacement Programme begins

23 February 2021

We are commencing a major programme to replace up to seven small “loch class” vessels serving the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network due to operational life expiry. The programme aims to achieve a very substantial renewal of the small vessel fleet during the next 10 years. We are leading the programme, supported by Transport Scotland and CalMac in a working group.


Phase one

The strategic business case for phase 1 of the programme was approved in late 2020 by the Transport Scotland Investment Decision-Making (IDM) Board. The scope of this first phase covers the following vessels. This will require a series of new-builds but some existing vessels may also be redeployed around the network.


Vessel Current route
MV Loch Striven Oban-Lismore
MV Loch Riddon Largs-Cumbrae (second vessel, summer only)
MV Loch Ranza Tayinloan-Gigha
MV Loch Dunvegan Colintraive-Rhubodach
MV Loch Fyne Mallaig-Armadale (summer only)
MV Loch Tarbert Tobermory-Kilchoan
MV Loch Linnhe relief vessel


The number of potential routes and communities in scope of the programme presents different challenges than for a single route project, at least until a provisional deployment plan has been developed.


Appointing naval architects

We have launched a procurement process to appoint a naval architecture consultant. Timelines are still evolving but the programme is currently on course to move to procurement of the first tranche of vessels in the next 12 months, subject to the completion and approval of an outline business base.


Stakeholder and community engagement

A communications and engagement plan for the programme is being produced to ensure the needs of users and communities are identified and responded to and as far as is practical and affordable, met both during the design and construction phases and during operation of the vessels once delivered. Although the potential scope of the first phase of the programme stretches much of the length of the CHFS network, our increasing use of virtual meetings and live webinars should ease some of these challenges.

A Reference Group for the programme as a whole will be established with key stakeholders to provide updates and to seek views at the network level. This is likely to include relevant local authorities, regional transport partnerships (RTPs) and third-party port owners.


Low emission vessels

In line with Scottish Government climate change commitments, the programme will aim to deliver low emission vessels utilising the latest proven battery and on shore charging technologies. CMAL and CalMac are in the fortunate position of being able to call upon the experience and knowledge gained from the three diesel electric hybrid vessels that were world-leading when launched.

Feasibility studies will be undertaken to establish which ports within the small vessel network have the ability to install the necessary power and equipment to charge the vessels and or accommodate energy storage systems and the cost of these upgrades. This factor will influence where new vessels are deployed.

The technical developments of this programme will be available for sharing with other public sector ferry and vessel operators.


Vessel standardisation

In line with the statement in the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan (see pg38), the programme will aim to achieve increased standardisation in hull design, propulsion and internal lay out as well as improved reliability, resilience, accessibility and capacity.


Best practice and continuous improvement

The programme will take note of lessons learned from other vessel delivery projects, including in particular the hybrid ferries projects, of the 2017 Audit Scotland report into Scottish ferry services, and of the recently published report of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee inquiry into the procurement and construction of ferries in Scotland.

A first independent assurance review of the project, analogous to a Gateway Zero review, has been undertaken by MacWilliams Consulting Limited.  The review team reported a MEDIUM HIGH degree of confidence that the programme will deliver its objectives and meet its requirements in regards to time, cost and quality.  Formal Gateway Reviews will be undertaken at key milestones during the course of the programme.


Phase two

Lessons learned from the first phase of the programme will allow us to address the challenges faced from the reclassification of the Sound of Barra, Sound of Harris and Sound of Iona routes. The vessels and/or infrastructure required for these routes will need to meet higher regulatory standards than the current vessels; “Euro B” rather than “Euro C”. During phase one, we will investigate a vessel design that complies with changed regulatory requirements for the Sound of Iona.

Planning for the replacement of the vessels in the scope of phase 2 will need to begin in good time, through the development of a strategic business case, particularly if significant infrastructure solutions or novel vessel designs are going to be considered among the options.

Design consultant appointed

We have appointed ferry design consultancy Navalue to lead the concept design of the programme. Navalue will provide consultancy services for the concept design stage of the programme, which will see several small vehicle and passenger vessels replaced on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network. CMAL and Navalue will investigate and evaluate the feasibility of designing low emission ferries to be in line with the Scottish Government climate change commitments.

Contact the project team

Questions and comments regarding the project can be emailed to