Financing vital ferry service

Financing vital ferry service

The MV Loch Seaforth ferry is part of the fleet of around 30 vessels which serve Scotland’s Western Isles. They provide a vital lifeline service by connecting around 120,000 of the islands’ residents to the mainland, including 20,000 people living on the small islands of Lewis and Harris.

Navigating stormy waters

The vessel crosses The Minch on its 53-mile journey from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway on the Island of Lewis in one of the roughest sea crossings in Europe. It’s owned by Lloyds Banking Group and leased to Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, a company wholly owned by the Scottish Government.

Improving the service

In 2012, following consultation between the local communities, the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited it was decided to replace two old and inefficient vessels then operating on the route (a passenger and vehicle carrying vessel and a separate freight vessel) with a more modern addition to the fleet. It was decided to acquire the vessel using funding provided through the private sector.

Supporting the acquisition

As part of Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds Bank’s Asset Finance Team in conjunction with the Bank of Scotland  Relationship Team, stepped in and successfully bid to provide the £45m operating lease needed to build the new vessel.

To ensure the uninterrupted provision of this vital lifeline service for the local community, the new vessel was introduced onto the route in February 2015 a short period after it’s completion in November 2014.  It has been designed to cater for projected market demand, including the significant increase in passenger numbers on the route in the summer months.

The ferry holds a key place in the heart of the local community. Following a competition to vote for their favourite name from four options, local school boy David Davidson selected the name ‘MV Loch Seaforth’, in memory of a local mail boat with the same name which operated in the region in the early 1970’s. David, along with family members of the mail boat’s captain, was invited to attend the launch of the new vessel in Germany; one of the few times they had been away from the island. The eldest daughter of the captain of the previous vessel was named as “God Mother” of the new vessel and had the privilege of undertaking the launch.

Supporting the acquisition

The maiden voyage

The ferry had her maiden voyage in February 2015, and now provides freight and transport for up to 700 passengers and more than 140 cars at any one time. This capacity means the islands need only one vessel rather than two, making the service more efficient, economic and environmentally friendly. The new vessel is also much quicker and has a significant fuel saving compared with the two older vessels.

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