'Our experience of carrying cargo for the islands is generally that small quantities up to 50 tonnes are ideal loads for the small islands -- the kind of work historically done by puffers,' says Sandy Edmond, boatyard manager at Corpach Boatbuilding Company.
With a further three landing craft at his
is, not surprisingly, critical of his
competition, the Loch Nevis, CalMac's new vessel for Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna, known collectively as the Small Isles.
'The feedback we get from the islands, and we deal pretty closely with them, is that CalMac has got totally the wrong boat for the Small Isles,' Edmond
'Then there are communities in Knoydart which are never going to have a pier, where you could run a good front-loading craft literally onto the beach.We're doing that at Gunna, off Tiree, to take sheep off.Or on Eigg, we've been taking mountains of scrap cars off the islands and that's where landing craft are ideal.
'That's why a lot of islanders feel that the new boat they've got, the Loch Nevis, is too big and not versatile enough because it has to go in to a Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) pier, whereas a landing craft can go into a beach anywhere.
'I find it extremely ironic that after spending however many million on the new ferry it's still possible for people like Sandy
[Edmond] to come and better by many times CalMac freight rates.
'Knoydart doesn't have a CalMac freight service and I believe we are lucky not to have a CalMac service at all.If a tenth of the subsidy that went to CalMac went to local operators, we would have a better service,' he
argues that most island routes could be viable as long as the appropriate-sized boat is used. 'Bigger is not always better,' he
In Arisaig, Murdo Grant, who owns the family firm Arisaig Marine, is another advocate of small passenger and cargo vessels.He
owns the Sheerwater , a passenger vessel which carries up to 89 people to the Small Isles without the benefit of the Executive subsidies which CalMac enjoys.
Grant says running small vessels to the isles would be 'a better bet altogether'.
'The islands used to buy their coal at about half the price we were paying on the mainland because of the puffers.Now they must be paying double because of Caledonian MacBrayne's rates.And they're having to hire a landing craft to bring stuff in, which seems crazy to me.'