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Caledonian Macbrayne Update - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

UPDATE 25/03/2020 12.47

Statement from Transport Scotland on restrictions on non-essential ferry travel to Scotland's remote and island communities

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has made clear the need to avoid all but essential travel by ferry to Scotland's remote and island communities.

From Sunday 22 March 2020, until further notice, ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business. Nothing else.

Only if a prospective traveller can evidence that they are either an island resident, a key worker or travelling to provide medical support to family members will they be sold a ticket and permitted to travel.

  • For residents that evidence could be a recent utility bill plus photo ID or Island Card.
  • For a key worker that is someone who need access to the islands in the course of their business. Each local authority has a list of key workers.

Business and freight can continue to use the services.

The operator of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, CalMac Ferries have implemented these changes.

These restrictions are intended to avoid, within a context of the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • placing excessive pressure on local health services, food and resilience arrangements in our remote communities;
  • reduce the risk of transmission of the virus arising from a large influx of visitors,

These steps are consistent with the Government's broader message on social distancing.

On board passengers should stay 2 metres apart, use hand sanitisers provided etc. In the event of becoming ill on board passengers should contact a member of the ship's crew without delay.

In practice, this will mean the following for ferry services:

  • A ban on recreational and social travel; and
  • A ban on non-essential travel to the islands by non-islanders

As a priority, ferry operators will help facilitate travel for non-Islanders to leave the island and to return home over the next few days. This will be deemed as essential travel.

Given the seriousness of the challenges facing island communities, the Scottish Government and ferry operators fully expect passengers to heed the above requirements.

Finally, please don't be offended by this advice. In due course we look forward to welcoming you back to the islands when the Coronavirus threat has passed.


During the current global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), CalMac is working closely with all relevant agencies and has implemented a COVID-19 contingency plan in line with current Government strategy.

In response, CalMac will now stop taking new bookings on all of its services up to and including 15 July 2020 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Bookings can still be made for travel from 16 July and beyond. Bookings that have already been made up to that period will be honoured where services are running. Priority will continue to be given to emergency services and medical emergencies. We will now be operating a turn up and go service on all of our routes.

CalMac will also stop serving hot food on board from tomorrow morning (20 March 2020) to free up our staff to crew our vessels.

Whilst we are currently able to continue operating our normal timetabled service; we do need to plan ahead for the impact the virus may have on our operations. For this reason, customers will not be able to book any service in advance for sailings due to take place up to and including 15 July. Bookings can still be made for travel from 16 July. This is to reflect the four-month period advised by Scottish Government as being the initial period of COVID-19 disruption.

Our catering services on board will be reduced but will offer tea, coffee and pre-packaged foods, such as sandwiches. Bottled and packaged drinks and snacks will also continue to be offered.

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac said: "The COVID-19 outbreak is creating an ever-changing landscape not just for CalMac but for all transport operators and indeed all businesses.

"Whilst we are currently able to continue operating our normal timetabled service, we have to plan for the impact of the virus on our staff at ports, on vessels and within our support services. It has been prudent, therefore, to pause our ability to offer customers advance bookings.

"We will be operating a turn up and go service on all of our routes. This will reflect arrangements we have much experience with, and those we already have in place permanently in a number of locations across the network, such as Wemyss Bay and Rothesay.

"We know how popular our food service is on board our routes, but we are sure our customers will understand our need to free up as many staff as possible to help with priority tasks such as cleaning and other on board duties. Understandably, we are seeing a reduction in the amount of food purchased at this time in any case, so this decision makes sense.

"As the situation is changing on a daily basis, we will keep this situation under constant review."

Caledonian Macbrayne

25 March 2020

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