17th December 2012
RIB and inflatable liferafts
Current / Last Route
31st October 2013
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd
Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon
A poem written by Sorley Maclean which is named after an abandoned township on Raasay.
Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd, Port Glasgow
3 x Volvo Penta Marine D13 MG (Diesel Electric Hybrid)
2 x Permanent Magnet Motor 375kW coupled to 2 x Voith 16 R5 EC/90-1 Units producing 750kW
Hoist & Lifts:
2013 to present: Sconser - Raasay
Additional: Lochaline - Fishnish / Mallaig - Armadale
After 14 years in the hands of the Loch Striven, by 2011 the Raasay route was experiencing the age-old 'demand exceeds supply' situation. The last small ferry built had been the Loch Portain in 2003 and gone were they days of new ferries every year, as had been seen in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2011 it was announced that a new generation vessel would enter service in late 2012 / early 2013 on the Sconser (Isle of Skye) - Raasay service. This, another similar but larger 'Loch Class' style vessel, would be powered by a hybrid combination of batteries and a small diesel engine. Built at Fergusons on the Clyde, following more than £20m of Scottish government investment, she and a twin sister (destined for service on Loch Fyne) would be much greener and efficient to operate than any previous company vessels.
On the 17th of December 2012 CMAL's newest vessel entered the Clyde at 1400 for the first time after launching from Fergusons shipyard to a piped rendition of 'Over The Sea to Skye'. Blessed by Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (and a bottle of Talisker) she held two quite significant 'firsts'. She was the first complete vessel to be launched on the once prosperous river Clyde for almost 5 years. She also held the claim to fame in being the worlds first diesel electric hybrid RO-RO vessel - something which in the future is likely to become the norm with environmental awareness prominent in new build contracts.
The Ferguson Group worked with Glasgow-based ship design specialists Seatec and electrical specialists Tec-Source to deliver the ferries. The project was supported by a Scottish government loan and additional funding of £450,000 from the European Regional Development Fund. Whilst she was being built, and indeed being fitting out, her crew underwent extensive training on the vessels' radically new hybrid equipment. This complex array of batteries coupled to sea water cooled Volvo engines rendered her quieter, more efficient and would offer better passage for passengers and crew than her predecessor. It was anticipated that she would achieve a minimum 20% power from batteries (meaning a 20% reduction in fuel than a diesel mechanical propulsion system) as Paul Camilli a crew member notes in his blog; "Using 'cutting edge' technology developed from recent leaps in lithium ion battery construction the Hallaig combined a conventional diesel electric drive with a high powered 700Kwh LiFePo4 battery bank that could be charged overnight from a shore connection." (Paul has a brilliant breakdown of how she operates on his site, there are also full details on the advanced system including drawings and diagrams are available from CMAL in a pdf.
At lower speeds and light loaded conditions; greater fuel savings could be achieved resulting in a greater reduction of CO2 emissions. On days with reduced numbers of crossings it would be possible to operate on batteries only for some crossings. In port the vessel is capable of operating on batteries only with zero emissions. The Lithium Ion battery string on board Hallaig had a total weight about the same as 4 to 5 cars.
Sea trials commenced on the Clyde on 5th August 2013, however an eleventh hour change in regulations meant additional insulation and cladding had to be fitted throughout the vessel and it was not until Sunday 13th October that she made her first appearance at Raasay. The following day she undertook berthing trials at Sconser and then a fortnight of 'battery optimising' took place. From Wednesday 16th Hallaig could be found running back and forth between Sconser and Raasay on a reverse timetable to that being operated by Loch Striven. During all of this she was still flying the Fergusons house flag and that remained so until 1630 on 31st October when she was formally handed over to CMAL and immediately chartered to CalMac Ferries. Crew training and familiarisation was then undertaken before Hallaig entered public service with the 0755 sailing from Raasay on Monday 25th November. (Sadly it didn't take long for teething troubles to arise and Hallaig had to come off duty after just two sailings - she remained off for the next four days.)
Teething problems aside, Hallaig proved popular with islanders, visitors and crew alike. She was regularly the subject of crew member Paul's blog (well worth a read by the way!) which allowed an insight into life behind the scenes on the ferry. It was clear just how much technology had advances in almost 30 years since the Loch Striven was built!
A smaller Loch Class ferry would appear each winter to allow Hallaig to go to the Mersey or the Clyde for her annual overhaul. Initially Loch Linnhe would provide this cover, however more recently it has been sister ship Lochinvar that has stepped in. Hallaig herself has, since 2018, provided overhaul relief for Lochinvar on the Lochaline - Fishnish service. Earlier on, in April 2014 Hallaig was called away to provide cover on the Mallaig - Armadale crossing - the Coruisk has lost an argument with the Dunoon breakwater and required major repairs to her bow visor and was late back to Mallaig for the start of the summer timetable.